The University of British Columbia welcomes the decision by the B.C. Ministry of Health to resume its support for the Therapeutics Initiative, a project managed by members of the Faculty of Medicine.
“This is good news. It means stronger patient protection through evidence-based evaluations of new drugs,” said Gavin Stuart, dean of the UBC Faculty of Medicine. “It is critical for our researchers to have access to health care data.”
The decision ends more than a year of uncertainty as the Ministry of Health conducted a review into the handling of B.C. patients’ health information. The TI contract, suspended in September 2012, resumes with enhanced oversight, strengthened accountability and more robust protection of patient information.
“UBC has always had a strong commitment to patient privacy as part of our research ethics,” said Stuart. “What we have now with the ministry is a clear, common understanding of the highest standards of privacy protection.”
The UBC Faculty of Medicine provided financial and staff support to the TI while the ministry’s contract was suspended, ensuring the integrity of the unit and its ability to resume work following the ministry’s investigation into data access.
Stuart commended faculty members and staff involved with the TI for weathering the past year’s uncertainties. “As a medical specialist, researcher and academic leader, I fully appreciate what the TI does to help physicians and patients better understand the safe and effective use of new drug therapies.”
Therapeutics Initiative: The Therapeutics Initiative is an independent initiative spearheaded in 1994 by leading researchers in the Faculty of Medicine. The TI is part of the Faculty’s Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and provides contracted services to a number of clients, including the B.C. Ministry of Health.
TI Integrity: In September 2012, as a result of government’s investigation into data access and suspension of project funding, research activities related to the TI were interrupted. In the absence of funding from the Province, UBC continued to pay TI faculty and staff in order to protect the integrity of the unit and mitigate the impact on UBC faculty and staff involved with this initiative.
Data and Health Research: Health research, particularly in areas of health services and policy as well as population and public health, depends heavily on the ready availability of existing data. Large volumes of data, generally drawn from sources such as hospital, physician and lab records, Medicare billing and registration data, vital statistics departments, cancer registries, employment data and socio-demographic sources and surveys, are needed to assemble unbiased samples that enable health researchers to draw conclusions that have the potential to benefit the greatest number of patients. UBC is one of Canada’s leading research universities and is consistently ranking among the top 40 world-wide. The Faculty of Medicine generates over half of UBC’s total research revenues – more than $300 million in 2011/12.