Pubdate: Thu, 02 Mar 2017
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Vancouver Courier
Author: Mike Howell


t's always nice to hear from the person in charge when you have
questions about what he or she is going to do to address a problem
affecting a large number of people.

You may not always like the answers - or get a straight answer, for
that matter - but still, it's something, right?

That person in charge: Federal Health Minister Jane

The problem - more of an epidemic, really: the overdose death crisis
that killed 922 people in 2016, not the widely reported 914 as yours
truly and others have written for more than a month. (Toxicology test
results of suspected drug overdose victims continue to confirm more
bad news.)

Last week, I managed to get 13 minutes with Philpott. She was on the
phone from Ottawa; I was at my desk in Vancouver. I happened to
conduct the interview on the same day that hundreds of people from
coast to coast took to the streets to call attention to the overdose

For those of you who read the Courier online, you may have come across
the story in which I quoted Philpott a couple of times. I should also
tell you drug activists were quoted, as was Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Give it a read right here.

The minister had a lot to say and, of course, I couldn't get all of it
in the story. So I thought I would give you a bit more. You can judge
for yourself whether you think she's on top of this file.

On legalization and regulation of all drugs:

"I've said before that we need to make use of every available
mechanism to respond to the crisis. So one of the things that we did,
for example, was I took action last spring to begin the process of
overturning a ban on access to prescription diacetylmorphine, which is
heroin. The previous government had put a ban on that, even though
there was evidence based on the work of a couple of significant trials
- - that it was a helpful tool to treating people with severe addiction.
So we went through the regulatory process and, as of September, it is
now available again to be used under the special access program."

On allowing the B.C. health ministry to go ahead and set up "overdose
prevention sites" in the province - without an exemption under the
country's drug laws:

"Extraordinary challenges call for extraordinary measures, and we are
working hard with provinces and municipalities to make sure that
facilities are available, and that we provide appropriate exemptions
along the way. There's work that's underway at the federal level right
now to change the requirements for formally providing an exemption for
supervised consumption sites. As we deal with that, clearly people are
doing what's necessary to stay alive."

On criticisms that finger-wagging among politicians is slowing
response to the country's drug use problem:

"Remember a year ago, you had to have a prescription for naloxone. So
I very quickly changed that. We also ordered an emergency shipment of
naloxone nasal spray. I did an expedited review for naloxone nasal
spray. I gave an approval to the Dr. Peter Centre [which has a
three-booth injection room], I gave a four-year approval to Insite. We
are in the process of changing the law [Bill C-37] around supervised
consumption sites. It's not about pointing fingers. We are absolutely
pressed with this, we are aware of what needs to be done and I have
said to every other level of government, 'Let me know what you think
we need to do.' It's my goal to respond to every single recommendation
of what we can do at the federal level."

Over to you reader - do you like her answers?
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MAP posted-by: Matt