Question Period: Children’s Medication Shortage

By: The Hon. Brian Francis

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Hon. Brian Francis: My question is for Senator Gold. Senator Gold, I read a troubling article in this morning’s The Globe and Mail written by Tanya Talaga. She explained that in September an Ontario regional pharmacist from the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, which is part of Indigenous Services Canada, sent a memo warning staff of the coming shortage of children’s pain medication and asking them to keep the expired product. The Globe and Mail health reporters could not find this type of directive anywhere else in Canada. In addition, another federal department, Health Canada, has advised against administering expired medication to children because it may not be safe or effective.

Senator Gold, could you please explain why there seems to be a different standard of care for First Nations children in Ontario? Could you also tell us whether this advice to stockpile expired children’s medicine has been provided to any other group in Canada?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you, Senator Francis, for raising that troubling issue. I’m going to have to look into it, and I will provide a response as soon as I can get one.

Senator Francis: Senator Gold, your government announced on Monday that a foreign supply of children’s acetaminophen had been secured and would be “. . . available for sale at retail and community pharmacies in the coming weeks.” Parents in more urban or suburban settings have been scouring pharmacies to find these needed pain relievers for their children as we’re facing a pediatric care crisis. However, families in northern and remote communities where supply is low or non-existing cannot simply search dozens of stores. In order to ensure that First Nations children have an equal chance to thrive as other children, Canada has a moral and legal obligation to ensure sustainable quality in the provision of services.

Senator Gold, can you please let us know how much of the foreign supply of children’s medication will be provided to First Nations people and communities? I’d like to see a detailed breakdown of the distribution.

Senator Gold: Thank you for your question, and I will endeavour to get an answer to that and provide it to the chamber as soon as I can.

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