Blame Canada? York prof talks to Time about US drug imports

Comments from Mary Wiktorowicz, professor in York’s Atkinson School of Health Policy & Management, made news in the Dec. 22 Time magazine (US edition) and the Dec. 16 issue of Canada’s Medical Post. The Time story focused on the issue of low-cost drugs from Canada that the governor of New Hampshire says his state will start buying online for prison inmates and Medicare patients – in open defiance of the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) ban on such imports. Wiktorowicz was quoted as cautioning the governor from going that route, saying some drugs from Canada may not pass FDA muster. Canada’s system for vetting new drugs is becoming more like those used in Britain and France, where recalls of new drugs are four times as high as in the US, she said.

In the Medical Post, Wiktorowicz said it won’t be easy for Canada to pull up its socks on drug safety. She was commenting on her study, released in October, that found the drug-approval system in Canada much less stringent than the US one. She examined how testing was implemented in Canada, the US, France and Britain, and said Canada’s system is beginning to mimic those in Europe, where business interests are more likely to be accommodated, said the publication.

To discover what goes on inside Health Canada, Wiktorowiz conducted interviews with insiders in the Therapeutic Programs Directorate (TPD), the branch of Health Canada responsible for approving drugs and monitoring them. Her investigations revealed that, “once drugs are out there, no one’s really monitoring them.”

The York professor was also critical of Canada’s initial drug approval system. Drug trial submissions are not re-analyzed, she said. “We’ve gone from a comprehensive approach to one based on risk-management. We are likely not catching everything.” The fact that drug reviewers are often the same doctors who have conducted clinical trials is another problem – a conflict of interest, she said.

Setting free the daycare children

In an article in the journal Young Children, Carol Anne Wien, a York education professor, and Susan Kirby-Smith, director of a children’s centre in Halifax, NS, lament the way schedules seem to rule early childhood education, and they investigate what happens when the clocks are removed from the daycare centres, said an article in the Dec. 17 National Post. They found the teachers were frustrated at first and complained of “feeling adrift” and as if “nothing was happening.” The children, however, “were very happy,” the researchers found. “Their play was frequently extended for most of the morning and showed teachers new talents and interests.” Wien and Kirby-Smith found that, in time, teachers began to adjust to the altered program. “Once the clock was removed, a new curriculum began to emerge,” the study said. “It did not focus on an arbitrary program that the teachers believed was good for the children. Rather, the children now began to co-own the curriculum with the teachers.”

Walk through Winnipeg’s art diversity

The holiday may be just the time to check out a few galleries and institutions you not have seen in a while, said the Winnipeg Free Press Dec. 17, citing a show by mixed-media artist Bonnie Devine (MFA ’99) at Winnipeg’s Urban Shaman art gallery. In Devine’s own words, her art is drawn from memories of traditional crafts, Western techniques of representation and construction, the history and traditions of the Ojibwa, and non-traditional materials, said the Free Press. Viewers will be struck by the sensitivity and the analytical clarity with which Devine combines image and text in narrating a story of uranium, economic development, environmentalism and the spiritual and physical homeland of the Serpent River First Nation near Elliot Lake, said the Free Press. The exhibition runs to Jan. 24.

President accepts research cheque

The North York Mirror Dec. 12 ran a photo of York President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden accepting a cheque for $3.9 million in Canadian Innovation Strategy funding, which was presented by York West MP Judy Sgro to cover costs of research. York VP Research Suzanne MacDonald was also present at the ceremony.

On air

  • Thabit Abdullah, York history professor, was one of the guests on TVO’s “Studio 2” on Dec. 17, discussing what the capture of Saddam Hussein means for Iraq, and whether an apparent assassination attempt on Pakistani’s president and an aging leadership in Egypt could be signalling change in other parts of the world.