“The most important thing you need to know when some is talking to you about drugs is where do they get their money from.”
On day 1 of the National Citizen Inquiry Alan Cassels gave a presentation explaining the path drugs take to become approved for use in Canada and the strict guidelines the companies must follow when it comes to advertising and marketing.
Alan Cassels is an independent health policy researcher with 29 years of experience and holds an adjunct faculty position in the Faculty of Human and Social Development at the University of Victoria. He’s a former employee of UBC’s Therapeutics initiative. Cassels has written dozens of peer reviewed articles and studies related to drug benefits management, drug regulation and drug marketing. He also published hundreds of articles on evidenced-based medicine and wrote a number of books.
Most of his research is focused on a gap between what the “evidence says about drugs and what the marketing says.”
He said on of the things he found difficult to witness during the pandemic “was the language that journalists and neighbors and friends would use against people that weren’t vaccinated. Using language that I would consider to be quite bigoted and discriminatory” Cassels told the inquiry.” he told the inquiry.
He started his testimony by describing what he believes was the reason his employer fired him without cause therefore not needing to tell him why.
Cassels wrote a letter to the Globe and Mail criticizing the language it used against unvaccinated people. He was accused by his boss of being critical of government policy in public letters.
Cassels said he pushed back saying his letter mentioned nothing about government policy, Health Minister Adrian Dix, Dr. Bonnie Henry or vaccine mandates. He pointed out he was calling it out on bigoted language directed at fellow Canadians that happen to not get the Covid-19 shots.
Cassels said he was told their funding could be pulled because of his opinions. He said leaned back in his chair and replied “Wow these are crazy times we live in if that’s the case.”
As Cassels dives into his presentation he said he wants to stay on the topic of the regulatory requirements when it comes to information about new drugs that are granted a license to be sold in Canada. It is illegal for drug companies to market their drugs for off-label purposes Cassels said.
Health Canada uses a Product Monograph (Health Canada Approved Label) when it licenses drugs. He describes the Product Monograph as a drugs owner manual and tells you the “properties, claim indications and conditions” of what to use the drug for and how to in a safe and effective manner.
According to Cassels the most important word in the product monograph is “indication,” meaning what the approved use is for that drug to treat an illness.
Anything with enough evidence submitted with the request to prove to Health Canada the drug can be used for something it would be on the label, which drug companies call “to grow the market” and allow the companies to advertise the drug for that “indication”.
He said an official at a pharmaceutical company once told him “we go to war for the label” meaning drug companies always try to get the most stuff on the label as possible for the biggest possible market to sell its drugs to.
Cassels also said someone at Health Canada told him “We’re not in the public safety business, we are in the patent protection business” when he asked about negative effects on the public during one of his research projects.
He showed the inquiry examples of legal marketing and illegal marketing or drugs.
The Product Monograph for BioNTech, Pfizer vaccine states it reduces symptomatic Covid with certain symptoms and a positive PCR test which can be found on the Government of Canada website. He went on to criticize public health people, journalists and politicians for saying things that drug companies would get criminally charged for saying.
The drug companies can’t be held liable for the false claims by other individuals and health authorities so they have no obligation to set the record straight with a public announcement.
Cassles focused most of his speech on the claim that the vaccine would prevent viral transmission of Covid-19. He found this claim to be the major selling talking point of the vaccines.
He said despite the indication on the label for the Pfizer vaccine only saying it reduces symptomatic Covid with certain symptoms. Some public health people, journalists and politicians were and still are out there marketing this vaccine saying it’s going to prevent hospitalizations, deaths, and prevent viral transmission of Covid-19.
But still it was marketed as if you get the jab you will save grandma, essentially claiming the Covid-19 vaccine stops transmission and infection of the disease.
The Covid-19 vaccine did not meet the indicator in the monograph, meaning there was no evidence to suggest with certainty to health Canada the shot would “stop the spread of Covidd-19” but British Columbia went along with marketing it in such a way.
The government of British Columbia posted a news release on Monday, August 23, 2021 asserting that vaccine passports will stop the spread of Covid-19 which implies the Covid-19 vaccine will stop the spread of Covid-19. The release is still online and never corrected with the headline “B.C. launches proof of vaccination to stop spread of COVID-19.”
Alan Cassels is correct that it’s illegal for anyone to push misleading or false information about drugs. According to Section 9 of the Foods and Drugs Act “Deception, etc., regarding drugs”. it says “No person shall label, package, treat, process, sell or advertise any drug in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression regarding its character, value, quantity, composition, merit or safety.”