More caution needed on newly approved drugs, Canadian researcher says

In a study published on Tuesday in the journal Open Medicine, York University Professor Joel Lexchin found that 22 of 528 new drugs Health Canada approved between 1990 and 2010 – 4.2 per cent – were pulled from the market. . . . “Early on, when a drug comes on to the market, we know relatively little about its overall safety profile. That means that both prescribing and taking new drugs can be quite dangerous,” said Lexchin, who is also an emergency room doctor at Toronto’s University Health Network, in The Globe and Mail Jan. 28. “Speaking as a doctor, unless a new drug is a major therapeutic advance, or unless there is nothing else to treat a serious condition, I wouldn’t prescribe a drug that’s been on the market for less than three or four years.” Read full story.

Counterpoint: Corporate directors need outside vetting
“Currently, financial institution and public company directors are self-selected by themselves or, worse yet, management. Shareholders may not propose their choice of, or remove incumbent, directors. They press for this right but boards resist,” wrote York University Professor Richard Leblanc in the Financial Post Jan. 27. “Therefore, there is no third party oversight or validation of director skills, qualifications and selection. This reality enables self-interest, entrenchment, recruitment on the basis of personal relationships, discrimination, and directors who do not possess requisite expertise and background.” Read full story.

Most older workers who leave career jobs return to work within a decade: Statistics Canada
The face of retirement today is shifting both due to changing government policies and demographic trends, said York University political science Professor Thomas Klassen in the Financial Post Jan. 28. Within the past five years, much of Canada has done away with mandatory retirement and workers are able to choose when to stop working. And with Canadians living longer, particularly women, and fewer employers offering robust pension plans, older Canadians require more money to support themselves, said Klassen. . . . “It’s contrary to this ideal image of retirement, that a lot of people still have,” he said. “It’s changing our perspective what it means to be older, what it means to be retired.” Read full story.

Most studied brain in the world: Cranium of man who couldn’t make new memories still yields secrets to scientist
When part of his brain was surgically removed in 1953 to cure his seizures, accidentally leaving him unable to make new memories, Connecticut labourer Henry Gustav Molaison became psychology’s greatest case study, known as HM to a generation of brain scientists. . . . Insights into brain plasticity have led to a newer vision of memory as a process that happens all over the brain. This is what Shayna Rosenbaum, a York University psychologist, has called the “shift from simplicity to complexity,” reported the National Post Jan. 28. She studies the related case of Kent Cochrane, of Mississauga, Ont., who developed amnesia like HM’s after a motorcycle accident in 1981. Read full story.

Escarpment commission urges more Line 9 safeguards
The Niagara Escarpment Commission is urging Enbridge to bolster its safeguards against potential spills along Line 9, adding another voice of concern over the embattled pipeline project. . . . Enbridge has steadfastly maintained its plan to reverse flow and increase capacity along Line 9 will be safe. But the commission’s missive adds more turbulence to what has turned into an unusually bumpy process for the National Energy Board (NEB), the federal regulator tasked with judging the project, says Mark Winfield, a professor of environmental studies at York University. “This has become a Class A political conflict, complete with demonstrators and the whole nine yards,” said Winfield in the Hamilton Spectator Jan. 29. “This is not the normal pattern for NEB hearings.” Read full story.