Photo credit: The Honorable Jane Philpott, Parliament of Canada Website: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members/Jane-Philpott(88835)
In light of my therapeutic rant on the Superbug crisis posted on my blog a few days ago, I committed myself to putting my actions where my mouth is, so to speak. In doing so, I thought I would at least share with whomever’s interested my letter to current Canadian Federal Minister of Health Jane Philpott, and a whole lot of other elected political brass in our House of Commons, including the big guy himself (JT) whom I carbon-copied the letter to (special thanks to a wise-old wizard who, for now, shall go nameless for that ‘cc’ political tip a couple of years ago – it really does make a difference in putting your letter to the top of the political ‘slush’ pile). Too bad it didn’t work that way for literary editors and publishers the way it does for politicians trying to get reelected, but I digress…
Here is my letter to Minister Philpott for those of you curious to read it. Her Parliament contact information, as well as that of any federal politician you may wish to write to on this or any other issue – municipal, provincial, state, or national – is readily available online. To fight off my natural inclination to turn this into a Social Studies lesson, I will stop right there and paste my letter below. Hopefully, at the very least, I’ve helped bring some attention, someway, somehow, to somebody in regards to the seriousness of this issue, and by so doing, hope to gain some traction on getting people, politicians, doctors, researchers, whoever to begin taking action to quell the destructive potential this problem, if continued to be left unchecked, may befall on all of us…
March 4, 2017
The Honorable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health
Confederation Building, Suite 162
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Dear Honorable Minister Philpott,
I am writing this letter to you in regards to an issue that, according to many medical and scientific researchers, is a veritable ‘ticking time bomb’ that has the potential to be the greatest existential threat to not only Canadians, but to the entire world – that is the steadily growing, and adapting, number of antibiotic resistant bacteria, germs, and viral organisms that, to date, are not only untreatable but rapidly communicable and, most disconcertingly, deadly to anyone, of any race, gender, age, or nationality.
As a medical doctor yourself, I obviously do not need to describe for you the roots or cause of this problem. I would however, unequivocally state my dissatisfaction at the lack of worldwide attention being directed to the matter, and the lack of will expressed by pharmaceutical companies, medical researchers, and governments in the Western World to fund research into new antibiotics and treatments for these ‘superbugs.’ While I know the challenges, both in terms of both economic cost and scientific limitations, to conducting this research are immense, to sit idly by while these resistant germs and organisms continue to adapt and spread is foolhardy, irresponsible, and dangerous , especially as we are now seeing firsthand the clear links between the rise of these resistant germs throughout the world in the face of new age, world developments like accelerated climate change and the pronounced availability of antibiotics worldwide.
While it is certainly a tendency of the human race, and certainly those of us among the electorate, to be reactive rather than proactive on issues such as these, I believe that we cannot afford to wait for the next major, inevitable, global pandemic to occur in order to capitalize on the public outcry to finally take action. There is much groundwork to be laid not only in setting up the funding structures and implementation of this research, but also in educating the general public about the dangers of overprescribing antibiotic drugs, improper disposal of unused prescriptions, the careless use (not to mention the unregulated availability) of antibiotics for household pets, and the rampant use of sanitizers in public places and private dwellings. Education, at this point, may be the best way to mitigate or quell the pending disaster that a superbug infestation or epidemic could potentially bring to our country. I call on our current Canadian government to take the lead in addressing this issue nationally by looking at creative ways to entice private corporations to begin research into effective treatments for the bugs already festering in our country, and to also take the lead globally, so that international nations begin working together to share and fund research that will ideally save countless number of lives in the future, including those of Canadians, who presently have no idea the threat such contagions pose to their health.
Thank-you very much for your time to consider my letter. As a concerned Canadian voter, I look forward to your response.
Cc: The Right Honorable Mr. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
Cc: Ms. Rona Ambrose, Interim Leader of Conservative Party of Canada
Cc: Ms. Kellie Leitch, Critic – Health, Conservative Party of Canada
Cc: Ms. Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada
Cc: Mr. Thomas Mulcair, Leader of Canada’s NDP
Cc: Mr. Don Davies, Critic – Health, Canada’s NDP
Cc: Ms. Rachel Harder, Member of Parliament, Lethbridge Riding
Here is the response I received, not from Minister Philpott, but from a designee she assigned the response to:
Dear Mr. Saad:
Thank you for your correspondence of March 4, 2017, addressed to the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, regarding antimicrobial resistance (AMR). I sincerely regret the delay in responding to your email. The Minister has asked me to reply on her behalf.
I agree with you that AMR is a growing threat to global public health. The Government of Canada recognizes this threat, and is committed to taking action to prevent, limit, and control the emergence and spread of AMR. Antimicrobial Resistance and Use in Canada: A Federal Framework for Action was released in October 2014, and maps out a coordinated, collaborative federal approach to addressing the threat of AMR in three strategic areas of focus: surveillance, stewardship, and innovation. The corresponding Federal Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance and Use in Canada, released in March 2015, outlines the concrete steps that the Government of Canada will take between 2015 and 2019.
Building on this initial response, a pan-Canadian framework for action on AMR and antimicrobial use (AMU) is under development by the federal government, the provinces, the territories, and external stakeholders across the human health, animal health, and agricultural sectors. As AMR is a shared responsibility in Canada, the Framework lays a foundation for coordinated, multisectoral action across jurisdictions on four key components: surveillance; stewardship; infection prevention and control; and research and innovation.
As you note in your letter, a lack of awareness surrounding AMR and AMU exists, and enhancing knowledge on this issue is a fundamental component of Canada’s efforts, both federally and as part of a pan-Canadian framework. The Health Portfolio participates in both national and international awareness efforts, and some of our educational resources can be accessed at: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/antibiotic-antimicrobial-resistance.html.
Surveillance of AMR and AMU is also essential to enhance our knowledge and understanding of this issue. To address this challenge, the Public Health Agency of Canada created the Canadian Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (CARSS) to provide an integrated picture of AMR and AMU across Canada. This enhanced and integrated surveillance is detailed in the CARSS Report, the most recent release of which can be found at: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/drugs-health-products/canadian-antimicrobial-resistance-surveillance-system-report-2016.html. To support a global picture of AMR, Canada has also joined the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System.
The Government of Canada is engaged at the global level on efforts to address AMR. For example, Canada endorsed the WHO Global Action Plan on AMR in May 2015. Through the G7, Canada has committed to encourage international discussions on incentivizing the pharmaceutical industry; incentivizing the research and development of new antimicrobials, vaccines, diagnostics, alternative therapeutics, and other medical countermeasures in human and animal health; and improving access to effective vaccines, diagnostics, antimicrobials, and alternate therapeutics.
The Government of Canada is committed to supporting research and innovation on AMR and is making investments through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Between 2011-12 and 2015-16, CIHR invested over $96 million in AMR research, with $20.2 million in 2015-16 alone. As part of these investments, CIHR has a focused initiative on AMR where investments are being made in developing new point-of-care diagnostics to allow for better diagnoses and treatment options for patients.
Thank you again for writing, and I hope that my comments are helpful in addressing your concerns.
Dr. Theresa Tam, BMBS (UK), FRCPC
Interim Chief Public Health Office
Public Health Agency of Canada