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Testing of Alaska Seafood Finds No Contamination From 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Alaska health officials say tests have again confirmed that Alaska seafood has not been tainted by the Fukushima nuclear disaster four years ago.

FishA magnitude-9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011, generated a 130-foot (39-meter) wave that devastated 217 square miles (562 square kilometres) in Japan. About 16,000 people were confirmed dead and nearly 2,600 were never found.

Among the damaged facilities was the nuclear plant complex at Fukushima, and meltdowns created fear that radionuclides might contaminate Alaska fish.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation says testing of Alaska-caught fish sampled this year confirms the same results as 2014 testing _ no detection of radioactive hazards from Fukushima.

Fish were sampled from commercial processors around the state using U.S. Food and Drug Administration methods.


Ontario Reconsiders Brand New Medical Marijuana Vaporizing Exemptions

Ontario’s Liberal government says it is now reconsidering medical marijuana exemptions to e-cigarette rules that are so new they haven’t even technically come into effect.

The turnaround comes just one day after the exemption for medical marijuana users to a vaporizing law came to light.

Associate Health Minister Dipika Damerla says based on feedback such as media reports and online comments, the government will take another look at the exemption.

The Liberal government quietly exempted medical marijuana users this week from a law that bans the use of e-cigarettes anywhere regular cigarettes are prohibited, regulations that are set to come into effect Jan. 1.

The exemption means medical marijuana users could vaporize in restaurants, at work or on playgrounds.

Damerla wouldn’t say if the second look at the exemptions would go beyond Jan. 1.


New Research Report Reveals More Canadian Women (and Men) are Embracing Injectable Cosmetic Treatments

Source: CNW Press Release

According to a new Report, more than ever before, every-day Canadian women are embracing injectable cosmetic enhancements for natural-looking results. The JUVÉDERM® FACE Report, the only report of its kind focusing on Canadian women’s attitudes towards aging and injectable cosmetic enhancement use, reveals facial rejuvenation is top of mind with about one in four women either using or considering cosmetic injectable treatmentsi.

Going Mainstream
“Injectable treatments are doing for women now what hair colouring did for them in the 1930s – they are easily accessible and give natural-looking results,” says Dr. Julia Carroll, a leading aesthetic dermatologist and founder of Compass Dermatology. “There has been a mainstream cultural shift in our acceptance of cosmetic injectable treatments because of the subtle results they can bring.  It’s okay to want to feel and look great in a real, every-day way, and to seek out treatments to help you get there.”

Reinforcing this trend, recent data from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (which includes Canada) showed that North American acceptance of wrinkle-smoothing injectables and fillers have increased considerably with a growth of 748 per cent in wrinkle-smoothing injectable treatments use and 253 per cent in filler use since 2000; clearly illustrating the shift in mindset over the past fifteen yearsii. The use of cosmetic injectable treatments by men has also increased dramatically since 2010 with growth rates of 84 per cent for wrinkle-smoothing injectable treatments and 94 per cent for facial fillersiii.

As part of the JUVÉDERM® FACE Report, a survey was conducted of 862 women between the ages of 30 and 60.  Women reported that the area around the eyes (frown lines, crow’s feet and under eye area) and smile lines (that run from the nose to mouth) are what bothers them most. These are also the top areas treated with cosmetic injectables.

Clinton announced another Canada policy this week, could affect millions: Pharma

Lost in the noise of her headline-grabbing coming-out against the Keystone XL pipeline, Hillary Clinton announced another Canada-U.S. policy this week that could affect millions of people.

She called for legalizing prescription-pill imports from Canada, becoming the second Democratic presidential candidate to adopt the position and effectively making it party policy in the 2016 election.

Millions of Americans who struggle with high drug prices have purchased cheaper medicine abroad since online pharmacies first opened two decades ago, with Canada pioneering that grey-market industry.

The issue has resurfaced politically as U.S. drug prices experience their biggest jump in years. One company was forced to back down last week amid news that a life-saving medicine had increased overnight from $13.50 to $750 per pill.

The same pill is available from a Canadian online pharmacy for $5.28. It’s generally illegal for Americans to buy and import that medicine, but the law is rarely enforced.

Now Clinton wants to normalize the practice.

“If the medicine you need costs less in Canada, you should be able to buy it from Canada _ or any other country that meets our safety standards,” she told an Iowa audience the same day she announced her long-awaited pipeline position.

“When I was privileged to represent upstate New York (as a senator)… every week there would be buses of American seniors going over to Canada, to buy drugs that were American-manufactured, drugs that were invented by American companies, for a much cheaper price over the border.

“That makes no sense at all, folks … I don’t want you to have to drive to Canada. So you can order them online.”

She became the latest candidate to endorse that policy. As he presented a bill this month, socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders reminded people that he helped spread word of cheaper drugs in Canada, in 1999 when he took a busload of seniors on a cross-border trip to the pharmacy.

“I will never forget the tears in the eyes of women who were able to buy the breast cancer drug tamoxifen at one-10th of the price that they were paying in the U.S.,” Sanders said.

“If we can import lettuce and tomatoes from Mexico, there is absolutely no reason why we cannot import safe and affordable prescription drugs from Canada.”

The issue cuts across partisan lines. There’s a similar Senate bill from Republican John McCain. Republican Mike Huckabee is campaigning on the idea. A survey from the Kaiser foundation said 72 per cent of Americans support buying prescription drugs from Canada. The proportion was higher among Republicans.

Congress even passed a law allowing importation in 2000 _ but the president, Clinton’s husband, gutted it. George W. Bush and Barack Obama both campaigned on a policy change _ it never happened.

The pharmaceutical industry has considerable pull in Washington.

It spent US$229 million lobbying Congress last year, according to the transparency site Open Secrets, and it donated $50 million in the 2012 election. For the sake of comparison, that last sum is almost as much as all the national spending allowed for political parties in Canada’s current election.

As their shares dipped slightly this week, the industry blasted Clinton’s speech and argued her policies would hurt companies that create new drugs.

She laid out other proposals including ending certain tax breaks, creating spending targets for research, and a $250-a-month limit on out-of-pocket expenses under insurance plans.

She accused the industry of anti-competitive behaviour and price-gouging, citing the controversial 5,000-per-cent price increase in the drug Daraprim.

Her plan proposes a crackdown on one factor believed to be driving high prices: collusion.

Like Sanders, she wants to curb the practice dubbed “pay to delay” _ where drug makers pay off generic rivals to keep them from bringing cheaper alternatives to market. U.S. federal regulators have punished companies over that practice on different occasions this year alone, and Sanders proposes far more severe penalties, including stripping companies of exclusivity rights over a drug.

But how would that affect Canadians?

One health-policy researcher worries it could hurt them by causing supply shortages and driving up prices.

“The giant sucking sound that would empty our pharmacies into the U.S. would be heard across the country,” said Amir Attaran, a health-policy researcher at the University of Ottawa.

“The drug shortages … in Canada … would be massive.”

A prominent health economist is less worried. A supply crisis would be far likelier in a major outbreak or a terrorist attack, said Steve Morgan of the University of British Columbia.

But he agreed online pharmacies wouldn’t solve the price problem for Americans.

He proposes a single-payer pharmaceutical system for Canada _ and for the U.S., he says, greater government management would improve the system.

Right now, U.S. prices are mostly fictitious, he says. Patients with insurance providers get discounts negotiated in secret. Others use online coupons.

The net result is a system designed to make everyone pay the maximum they can afford. And those without access to insurance or discounts could be out of luck.

With a better-managed system, he said, “you would just eliminate all these games.”



The study, Pharmacare: what are the costs for patients and taxpayers?

TORONTO, Sept. 28, 2015 /CNW/ – New research suggests that a national single-payer Pharmacare program is unnecessary and will be costly for Canadian patients and taxpayers. The study was published at Canadian Health Policy the online journal of Canadian Health Policy Institute (CHPI).

Since 2013, several academics, activist groups and unions have been vigorously advocating for the establishment of Pharmacare. Several papers have been published that advocate for Pharmacare. Most recently, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published a study (Morgan et al 2015) that estimated the cost of establishing Pharmacare.

Pharmacare is proposed as a national universal publicly-funded single-payer system that would entirely replace Canada’s current pluralistic system of federal-provincial-territorial publicly-funded drug plans, and employment-based private drug plans. Pharmacare advocates infer that this will be either a federal program or a federal-provincial-territorial intergovernmental cooperative program in order to achieve national scale and standards.

“Pharmacare advocates propose to establish a government-run monopoly over drug insurance,” said Dr. Brett J Skinner lead author of the report. “Our study examined what that will mean for patients and taxpayers.”

According to co-author Kimberley Tran, “We asked several important questions about Pharmacare that have not been adequately addressed by its advocates like, how many Canadians are insured, uninsured and under-insured for their prescription drugs? How will access to prescription drugs be affected and what are the health implications for patients? Under realistic assumptions, how much cost will be shifted from private plans onto taxpayers? What are the indirect economic costs from a government take-over of private insurance? How do other countries achieve universal drug insurance coverage?”

The CHPI study examined the evidence and concluded that there are at least four reasons why Canadians should be skeptical about Pharmacare.

Fist, according to the study, Canada’s actual experience with public drug plans strongly suggests that Pharmacare will reduce access to the most innovative medicines for the 24 million Canadians who currently have employment based private drug plans, without improving benefits for the 11 million Canadians who are currently eligible for public drug plans.

“Forcing 24 million Canadians with private drug plans to accept the inferior coverage provided by public drug plans could have profound health and economic implications,” said Dr. Skinner.

Second, assuming realistic prices and no changes to the drug benefits currently enjoyed by Canadians, the study calculated that Pharmacare will shift $13.2 billion in direct prescription drugs related costs onto taxpayers. If implemented entirely as a centralized federal program, Pharmacare would shift $25.5 billion off the provinces and the private sector onto the federal budget. In both cases, additional indirect economic costs resulting from the government take-over of the private drug insurance industry could total at least$4.1 billion in the first year.

Third, the study argues that a government monopoly is not needed to achieve universal drug insurance coverage: under the current pluralistic public-private system, Canada already has universal drug insurance coverage for catastrophic expenses, and near universal insurance coverage for ordinary prescription drug costs. Neither is a centralized national program needed:  provincial/territorial/federal governments already have the authority to autonomously implement any kind of drug insurance system they wish within their respective jurisdictions.

Fourth, the study suggests that international experience proves there are other ways to achieve universal drug insurance coverage. Several advanced countries have mandatory universal private drug insurance systems supported by means tested public subsidies. Some aspects of Quebec’s drug insurance system are similar to these countries and Quebec has consistently provided the best access to innovative prescription drugs among all of Canada’s publicly funded drug plans.

According to Dr. Skinner, “The evidence suggests that the real problem with drug insurance in Canada is that existing public drug plans are grossly under-insuring patients compared to the coverage provided by private insurance plans. Public drug plans simply provide much fewer treatment options for patients, leaving 11 million Canadians with uninsured drug costs whenever their prescribed and preferred treatments are not covered under the public plan.”

Ms. Tran summed up the study’s recommendations by saying, “drug insurance reforms should focus on helping more Canadians gain the health advantages of the better coverage offered by private drug plans. We can learn a lot from mandatory universal private health insurance systems in other countries. In the meantime, governments should work to improve coverage for new medicines across existing public drug plans in Canada to match the patient health options provided by private drug insurance plans.”

Get the Study
The study, Pharmacare: what are the costs for patients and taxpayers? It was authored by Brett J Skinner (Ph.D.), Mark Rovere(Ph.D. candidate), Neil Mohindra (M.B.A.), and Kimberley Tran (M.A.). It is available online at: www.canadianhealthpolicy.com orwww.chpi.ca.

About CHPI
CHPI is a crowd-funded, consumer-driven, independent think-tank dedicated to conducting, publishing and communicating evidence-based research on the health system performance and health policy issues that are important to Canadians.

SOURCE Canadian Health Policy Institute

For further information: Kimberley Tran, Economist and Media Spokesperson, CHPI. Email: kimberley.tran@canadianhealthpolicy.com, Managing Editor, CHPI. Email: managing.editor@canadianhealthpolicy.com

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