Saturday, November 29, 2014

Health Canada Badly Fails Canadians at Risk for HIV Infection

A surprising tweet landed in my inbox some time late yesterday afternoon. Health Canada issued a 'warning' about OraQuick in Home HIV Test. It's currently available for sale on the Canadian site of Amazon. Now, you might think, what qualms could one possibly have about Health Canada issuing a warning about this HIV self-test kit? It might be untested, not doing what it promises to do, etc etc. Makes sense then that the agency 'has initiated compliance and enforcement actions', as it notes darkly on its website, showing its regulatory teeth where it purportedly matters. In any case, you might think, why don't people use a self-test kit that has actually been approved by the agency?

Here the plot thickens. Turns out, 'there are currently no HIV test kits authorized by Health Canada for home use.' In other words, our regulator has chosen not to authorize any HIV self-test kits for use by us. Your guess is as good as mine as to why this hasn't happened. Perhaps our draconian and control obsessed public health agencies want to prevent individual access to self-tests. Perhaps there is an assumption by the medical establishment that we're just too daft to administer the self-test. Perhaps there are mistaken assumptions about our ability to cope should the test results give us reasons to be concerned. Countries such as the United States, and the UK as well as quite a few others have given regulatory approval for these test kits. Apparently competent adults are not treated like children in other parts of the world.

So, what about OraQuick's home HIV test? Let's see, here are customer reviews at US pharmacy chain CVS's website. Yep, it's a 5***** product. People who have used it love it. Well, as we all know, people also love homeopathy, so this tells us little about whether a product is good or works. Let's go then to a regulatory agency that, unlike Health Canada, actually does its job. The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved this home test in 2012.

As I said earlier, I don't know why Health Canada is doing such a lousy job on this front and doesn't evaluate and approve HIV home test kits. They work, they are known to be used widely and they serve to make people more knowledgeable about their HIV status who might - for reasons best known to them - do not wish to inform our Public Health Agency of their HIV status. These people are put off testing by the need to see a doctor and get a script to get tested for HIV. This obviously undermines important public health objectives. Fewer people at risk for HIV infection will get tested. Some HIV positive people will remain ignorant of their status and likely pass on the virus to sex partners. It is public health foolishness not to make access to HIV testing as easy as possible. This, of course, conflicts with the never-ending control freakery public health professionals are notorious for.

I understand why Health Canada needs to act on unregistered products being sold in the country. However, there are products and products. This particular product has been approved for use by a serious, better resourced and arguably better functioning regulatory agency than Health Canada, the FDA. Health Canada has failed for years to test (and approve) this particular product. To now go on a twitter campaign and on an enforcement campaign to prevent the sale of this product in the country suggests seriously wrong priorities at the agency. Meanwhile Canadians tired of this nonsense are at least able to hop across the border, go into any pharmacy they fancy and be treated like actual adults. The product triggering Health Canada's 'compliance and enforcement' activities is on the shelves there. Apparently Health Canada has the resources to engage in compliance and enforcement this-n-that, testing and approving sensible products? Not so much.

How about focusing on actual bogus products or products known to be harmful?

2 comments:

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