"We started nine months ago with six individuals who needed treatment. Unfortunately one has died. Another one was admitted this week to St. Paul's Hospital because he's becoming progressively ill...
"And to be honest with you we need to re-examine how we do business to ensure that we do the best for the patients at all times and not get tangled on unnecessary bureaucratic delays." - December 21, 2005 Dr. Julio Montaner responding to CBC reporter saying the Health Canada approval process took too long
Health Canada is still taking too long to approve drugs in general, the latest case took them over nine months to approve drugs required on compassinate grounds. It is not unusual for Health Canbada to approve use of drugs for compassinate reason, what is becoming increasingly unacceptable is the delay in making the approvals.
Dr. Julio Montaner of the BC Centre for Excellance in HIV/AIDS, one of the world's leading treatment specialists made an application to use the experimental drugs TMC 114 and TMC 125 as a last hope for six of his patients. These people were not responding to those drugs currently available. The experimental drugs are not ready yet for approval though remain the only hope doctors have in treating the patients.
While Health Canada dithered one of the patients awaiting their approval passed away. One more has been admitted to St.Paul's Hospital and is becoming progressively ill.
Something has to be done with health Canada, they don't have enough staff, reports of requests sitting on desks for months at a time without so much as assigning file numbers, the list goes on.
More people may soon require approval to use these two experimantal drugs or other medications. Is Health Canada going to wait until they die before making them available? No I understand they don't mean to wait for people to die, it is however an effect of their lack of action on these files.
What's the solution, speed up approval processes, hire more qualified staff, and fund Health Canada to do more research. Perhaps if the Liberals kept their promise to double the AIDS Funding strategy, more would be done. The Liberal Health Ministers since Alan Rock have been promising to increase funding for the AIDS strategy. They announced last year increases to be made over five years. Typical in that the funding is needed now and the Liberals are acting like they have done something.
Its time they answered for not only the death of the man waiting to get access to one of the drugs mentioned above, and the thousands currently living with HIV/AIDS. I will leave it to the readers to decide if the Liberals should have to answer for the needless deaths that occur everyday in Canada from HIV/AIDS.
Paul Lewand is the Chair of BC Persons With AIDS Society, he speaks passionately here on the issue and the need to approve these drugs sooner. The link will take you to a CBC interview.
Link to CBC INTERVIEW: The Early Edition's Rick Cluff speaks with B.C. Persons with AIDS Society chair Paul Lewand, who is also waiting for federal approval to be treated with TMC-114 and TMC-125.