Health officials have begun to shift away from a drug that can help some patients recover after cardiac arrest, but some are concerned the new policy could result in fewer drug options for people who have not experienced a cardiac arrest.
A new policy that took effect in November is designed to encourage the use of drugs that are safe and effective for people with advanced or complex illnesses.
It requires doctors to notify patients of any new medication that is not already approved for them by the Food and Drug Administration.
It’s part of a wider effort by Health Canada to increase access to drug therapies.
The federal government is pushing for more use of new medications, including an emergency medication for people living with heart failure.
The policy requires that all new drugs approved for use in Canada be tested in people who’ve had a cardiac event, and approved drugs must be approved for the person’s condition.
The change also requires physicians to notify the public of the medications’ new availability and any change in dosage.
But some patients have been told they cannot get the drug unless they go to an emergency room.
They have also been told that they can’t have the drug if they have a history of drug dependence.
Patients who have a cardiac condition are at high risk of needing emergency treatment.
And because of the potential for overdose, some people may feel unable to get a drug.
“I don’t think that people have any idea that you’re not really safe until you’ve had your heart attack,” said Dr. Jennifer Ruhlman, the director of cardiac surgery at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
The new policy does not apply to people who are receiving care for chronic conditions, such as diabetes, which are rare in Canada.
But patients at the St. Michael’s Hospital, where I had surgery, were not included in the change, and some have been asked to wait to see whether they can get the drugs until they can find another doctor.
Dr. Ruhmann said the hospital did not expect the new regulations to change patients’ care in the long run.
Health Canada’s new policy also has drawn criticism from patient advocacy groups who say it doesn’t go far enough.
“We’re very concerned about the way this is going to impact the health of people who do not need this,” said Jennifer Cottrell, a member of the Heart Foundation of Canada’s board.
She says she doesn’t know how many people are being left out.
The Health Canada announcement came after more than 30 people in Ontario had their lives altered by a sudden cardiac event.
Health Canada said the policy will help people avoid the trauma that occurs when a heart attack occurs and will ensure drugs are used correctly in the case of cardiac arrest that occurs while the person is receiving treatment for chronic health conditions.