Government needs to come clean on Big Pharma’s influence

(Victoria, 17 July 2013) – IntegrityBC is calling on the provincial government to disclose what pressure Big Pharma may be trying to bring to bear on provincial pharmaceutical policies and if that role also included issues surrounding the future of the Therapeutics Initiative.

The organization made its call following the release last week of an email written by former B.C. Ministry of Health employee Rebecca Warburton and a review of the “Who’s Lobbying Who in BC” bulletin from the Registrar of Lobbyists.

According to the Registrar of Lobbyists’ monthly bulletin, major pharmaceutical companies have been conducting what can only be described as a full-court press on policy issues related to the province’s drug review process and pharmaceutical policies.

The goals of some of that lobbying included: “to provide perspectives on policy changes which may impact access to innovative medicines,” “to provide input into BC’s pharmaceutical policies and priorities relevant to the organization,” “lobbying…for the introduction of a legislative framework for pharmaceutical services in B.C.,” “to discuss policy issues related to the Drug Review and Reimbursement process,” and “to provide input into the decision making process as it relates to the pharmaceutical sector.”

However, the Registrar’s bulletin is only a snapshot of the full extent of these companies’ lobbying efforts. According to research by the Vancouver Sun, pharmaceutical companies are among the most active lobbyists when it comes to lobbying the B.C. government.

The Sun’s research showed that Merck was the 10th most active and the pharmaceutical lobby group Rx&D was the 11th. Merck reported that it intended to contact government officials 178 times, and Rx&D intended to make 177 contacts.

Clearly, these companies have something on their mind regarding pharmaceutical policies in B.C. and it’s now incumbent on the government to tell British Columbians what it is,” said IntegrityBC executive director Dermod Travis.

Warburton’s email – released last week by the Official Opposition – raised renewed fears that politics may be playing an inappropriate role in the provincial government’s drug review research.

In her June 2012 email, Warburton wrote: “We’ve decided to keep Smoking Cessation in-house, sorry about that — it’s getting political and we aren’t sure anyone wants to see a published evaluation.” Warburton was one of the 7 employees dismissed by the Ministry of Health in 2012.

The B.C. government has a duty to disclose whether political considerations played a role in shutting down the Smoking Cessation research that the Therapeutics Initiative was conducting on Champix and to release all relevant material from the drug’s manufacturer Pfizer to the government on this research,” said Travis.

Last week, IntegrityBC disclosed that nine major pharmaceutical companies and two trade associations have donated nearly $250,000 to the B.C. Liberal party since 2005.


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For more information:

Dermod Travis, Executive Director