Access to vital information: drug safety edition

Submitted by Carlyn Zwarenstein on January 26, 2014 - 17:27

With the recent news that the main Health Canada research library in Ottawa has closed, with inter-library loans (i.e. access to Health Canada's irreplaceable collection) outsourced to a private company, we wondered about a possible tie-in with the article we're looking forward to publishing in Open Medicine this week--a troubling report on drug safety and recall rates.

Study author Joel Lexchin, an emergency room physician and professor of the School of Healthy Policy and Management in York’s Faculty of Health, was of course reluctant to draw snap conclusions about how access to the collection in question might affect his future ability to keep an eye on the safety of new medications that come on the market. He notes, however, that restricting access Health Canada’s collections in this way means restricting access to historical material that allows him and other researchers to, for example, track the evolution of Canada’s drug safety system. That includes older material in the library such as thirty- or forty-year-old "Dear Doctor" letters and information letters on past drug withdrawals and reasons for them.

Of course, time will tell what sort of impact the increasing loss of access to health sciences research will have. Meanwhile, please stay tuned for Dr. Lexchin’s article this Tuesday.


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