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Lack of drug data is blocking important research

Researchers with the Therapeutics Initiative need to have their access to data restored as soon as possible, says Jim Wright, the managing director of the University of B.C. pharmaceutical research group.

"It's been over two months and it's unsustainable," said Wright in a Sept. 11 interview. "Vitally important research is not going to be done."

At the end of June the health ministry cut TI researcher Colin Dormuth's access to data as part of the response to the investigation that last week resulted in the firing of four ministry employees and the continued suspension of three others, said Wright.

Wright said there's been no indication Dormuth or any of the 11 people who work with him were implicated in any way. They are of the highest integrity and only get fully anonymous data, making a privacy breach impossible, he said.

In June they thought the interruption to data access would be short term, but it's gone on, Wright said. "Everything they do is dependent on access to the PharmaNet database," he said. "We're coming forward at this point to say it's not acceptable. It's in the public interest the data be reinstated."

The stop on data has made it impossible for the TI to meet the deliverables set out in its agreements with the health ministry or to participate fully in the federally funded $32 million drug safety and effectiveness network.

"They're counting on B.C. to be contributing research data on a regular basis," he said. "We need access on a regular basis and we've always had good access... It's a major disruptive impact."

Wright said he didn't know more than what's been reported on the health ministry's investigation, but the drug access issue needs to be resolved quickly.

A ministry spokesperson said they don't know yet when data access will return to normal. "We're working to do this as soon as we can, while ensuring the data is secure, privacy is protected and the processes are appropriately being followed," he said in an email.

This story first ran alongside the feature 'I Thought I was Doing a Good Job' on The Tyee main page.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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