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Academic review backs UBC drug review researchers' work

An independent review of the Therapeutics Initiative at the University of British Columbia found the drug-review body's work should continue, with a few changes including a new name.

It also called the government's Pharmaceutical Task Force Report, which recommended disbanding the TI and led to the academic review, “Lacking in substantive evidence.” That report was written by a committee stacked with people with ties to the drug industry.

The reviewers were UBC's Bassam Masri, Jean Gray at Dalhousie University, Lisa Dolovich at McMaster University and David Henry at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

“There is a role for a formal academic structure in BC to perform independent structured assesments of new drugs,” wrote the reviewers in their 18-page report. “Based on expert opinion within this review committee, we felt that the methodology of TI is justified and is in keeping with national and international standards for the work of similar bodies elsewhere in Canada and internationally.”

It shouldn't be up to the TI to consult with industry and outside experts, they found. “Consultation should be the responsibility of the Pharmaceutical Services Division [of the Health Ministry] not the Therapeutics Initiative.”

They also found the TI's reputation was better internationally than locally: “It is also clear that within British Columbia there is resistance to the name Therapeutics Initiative. However, the name Therapeutics Initiative, as a brand, has a favorable international reputation. While it is not the mandate of this review team to determine what happens to the name Therapeutics Initiative, it must be made clear to the TI opponents that the title Therapeutics Initiative has an excellent international reputation.”

They suggested changing the name because of the resistance to it, while continuing the body's work. Following are the 11 recommendations made by the review committee:

1.The current Therapeutics Initiative Program should be replaced with a different structure;

2.The Therapeutics Initiative should be replaced with a new Section of Therapeutics within the Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology and Therapeutics;

3.Stable arms-length funding for the Section of Therapeutics is necessary;

4.An enhanced Administrative Structure for the Section of Therapeutics with transparency and accountability is required;

5.The Section of Therapeutics needs to establish collaboration with similar academic units at UBC and elsewhere;

6.There needs to be a balance between the service component of the Section of Therapeutics and its commitment to academic contributions;

7.There is a need for the Section of Therapeutics to pursue external peer-reviewed funding;

8.There needs to be transparency when dealing with government policy decisions;

9.There needs to be an academic focus on drug assessment methodology;

10.There needs to be an enhanced communication strategy;

11.The Section of Therapeutics should provide independent assessments of drugs, at the request of the Ministry as well as others. The Ministry of Health Services should request a panel of experts, chosen in collaboration with the Faculty of Medicine and the BCMA, to review the assessments. We also feel that industry should have the opportunity to review the assessments for factual errors prior to the reports being forwarded to the Drug Review Committee.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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