Canada's Health Minister Rona Ambrose speaks at a press conference announcing a new online reporting resource for drug shortages at the Kaye Edmonton Clinic at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alta., on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013
Credits: Ian Kucerak/Edmonton Sun/QMI Agency
OTTAWA - Officials at Health Canada circumvented the health minister Friday when they approved a program that would enable the government to provide heroin to junkies.
Health Canada's Special Access Program (SAP) allows Canadians with rare diseases or conditions to receive medications that are not normally allowed in this country.
Health Canada bureaucrats appear to have found a loophole that would allow doctors to provide heroin to heroin users under a special application under the SAP.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose seemed blindsided and released a statement Friday expressing frustration at the apparent undermining of government policy.
"Our government takes seriously the harm caused by dangerous and addictive drugs," Ambrose said.
"Earlier today, officials at Health Canada made the decision to approve an application under the Special Access Program's current regulations to give heroin to heroin users - not to treat an underlying medical condition, but simply to allow them to continue to have access to heroin for their addiction even though other safe treatments for heroin addiction, such as methadone, are available."
Ambrose said Health Canada's move is "in direct opposition to the government's anti-drug policy and violates the spirit and intent of the Special Access Program."
Ambrose said she would take immediate action to "protect the integrity of the (SAP) and ensure this does not happen again."
NDP health critic Libby Davies is "outraged" Ambrose would "overrule her own experts."
"Medicalized heroin maintenance has been used very successfully in places like Europe," she said. "It's another example of the Conservative government ignoring sound public policy, instead making decisions based on political dogma."
The Health Canada website describes the intent of the SAP as to provide drugs to Canadians with life-threatening illnesses on a "compassionate or emergency" basis. Drugs covered under this program include "pharmaceutical, biologic and radiopharmaceutical products that are not approved for sale in Canada."
The diseases covered under this program include intractable depression, epilepsy, transplant rejection and hemophilia.
Health Canada did not return calls from QMI Agency.