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HomePolicy Articles Article Summary

A Lethal Guardian: The Canadian Government’s Ban on Prescription Drugs

Digital Publications by John Graham

In this paper, John Graham addresses a controversial policy of the Canadian government: when any new drug is invented and ready for distribution in Canada, the federal government responds by enforcing an automatic ban on its use. The ban is removed for patients who urgently need the drug, and the general ban is lifted only after the manufacturer has paid a user fee and waited for Health Canada to approve the drug. Graham argues this policy is harmful to the health of Canadians because it prevents patients from receiving treatments that might save their lives.

Graham also points out that Health Canada is increasing the time it takes to lift the ban on new drugs. The logic behind the ban is that it prevents any negative side effects of the drug to be identified before it is available to the general public; however, Graham argues that any negative effects are off-set many times over by the positive outcomes that could have occurred had the drug been available sooner.

In his paper, Graham compares Canada’s drug policy to those of other countries – including the United States and members of the European Union (EU). He argues that Canada should adopt a policy similar to the EU, whereby once the drug has been approved in a comparable jurisdiction (for example, the US or Australia), Canada should drop the ban. Under this model, Health Canada would still have the authority to review the safety of drugs. Graham argues that Canada’s drug policy is, in fact, creating barriers to effective health care.

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Policy Publication Details

Author(s): John Graham;
Publisher: Fraser Institute [ Visit Website ]
Year Published: 2005; Publisher Type: Research Institute
Publicly Available: Yes Research Focus: International; National;
Registration Required: No Language: English
Payment Required: No Publication Format: Adobe PDF

Subjects / Categories:

Policy Articles / Health Care / Reform
Policy Articles / Health Care / Reform / 2005
Policy Articles / Health Care
Policy Articles / Health Care / Pharmaceutical
Policy Articles / Health Care / Pharmaceutical / 2005


Keywords / Tags:

prescription drugs; Health Canada; drug bans; European Union health policy; access to prescription drugs;