Japanse Prime MinisterBy Ashley Schram, Ronald Labonte and Kapil Khatter.

In October 2012, Canada became a negotiating member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement along with 11 other Pacific Rim countries. Widely touted as “a model for 21st-century trade agreements,” it extends well beyond traditional trade issues into domestic policy, creating a number of concerns about its implications for public health. These concerns include potential increases in pharmaceutical costs, the undermining of Canadian patent law, and strengthened investor rights over public health regulations to limit the consumption of products harmful to health.

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Obesity Is Not the New Tobacco

by Kapil Khatter on July 10, 2014

CigaretteThere are those who say obesity is the new tobacco. It’s not.

I understand the argument. While tobacco companies and others like asbestos producers have long gathered top prizes for most toxic products sold, most hospital patients created, most lives shortened prematurely, obesity is becoming one of our greatest killers. Even in poorer countries, the diseases of obesity — diabetes, heart disease, stroke — are rapidly moving up the rankings, becoming bigger causes of death and disability than the old classics: AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, the diseases of undernutrition.

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The Fraser Institute and the Obesity Myth

by Kapil Khatter on May 5, 2014

Apple and scaleOnce upon a time there was a little right wing think tank called the Fraser Institute with some pretty big donors. Although the think tank called itself independent, it got a lot of its money from corporate-friendly foundations, so sometimes, some people thought it was a little biased by that.

Anyway, one day the little think tank decided to do a little report on our supposed problem with obesity and its supposed health effects. Now the little think tank was not a big expert on obesity, but it was a big expert on using statistics in just the right way to make the case it wanted.

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Canada Should Put Restrictions on Acetaminophen

by Kapil Khatter on March 11, 2014

AcetominophenAcetaminophen (Tylenol, Tempra, Anacin) is the top-selling over-the-counter painkiller, available without prescription since the 1950s, yet there have long been serious questions about its safety. The drug has what is called a “narrow therapeutic window,” meaning the amount that might harm you is not that much more than the amount that will make your pain go away. In fact, it appears some people are sensitive enough to be hurt badly even by today’s recommended doses.

Known as paracetamol in much of the world, acetaminophen can be terribly unfriendly to your liver if you take a little too much, and terribly unfriendly to you staying alive if you take a lot too much. It is the leading cause of overdose, intentional or accidental, and the drug most commonly involved in people seriously damaging their livers.

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How the Trans-Pacific Partnership Will Literally Kill Us

by Kapil Khatter on January 24, 2014

TPP - Why so secret?There is a new generation of trade agreements, of economic agreements like the bold new Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), that have many of us less than excited, concerned instead about their vast potential to handcuff elected governments and give corporations more power.

It is hard to trust anything created with such locked-box secrecy, such sneering disregard for the views and interests of the hundreds of millions people it will impact. Only the faithful and the foolish blindly trust that the powerful, when secreted in rooms together, will prioritize the needs of the powerless.

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Alcohol Convenience is Bad for Our Health

by Kapil Khatter on November 27, 2013

Alcohol convenience is bad for our healthMac’s Convenience Stores is promising Ontarians a deal: 27 new convenience stores, the expansion of others, and a bunch of new jobs if they are allowed to sell beer, wine and spirits. But is Mac’s jobs for booze pledge really a good deal for Ontarians?

Let’s look at where the jobs would come from. Mac’s could bleed them from The Beer Store and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. Better paying jobs with good benefits from the province’s major retailers of alcohol would be replaced by more poorly paid jobs. That hardly seems like a good deal.

Or worse, the jobs could come from expanded alcohol sales. With more alcohol sold and consumed, we would likely see more alcohol-related harm and more alcohol-related costs to society. That hardly seems like a good deal, either.

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Who Paid for Your Doctor’s Opinion?

by Kapil Khatter on October 1, 2013

Your doctor's prescriptionsIt would be nice to think your doctor prescribed you that new drug based only on the science, based only on those dry journal articles they fine-toothed after the children had gone to bed. But according to experts on “publication planning,” your doctor also has to contend with sophisticated pharmaceutical industry strategies, careful plans to convince them to choose new and exciting medications. Described as not just ghost writing, but a kind of ghost management, publication planning is part of a growing culture, these experts say, of corporate-led science.

There are academic pharmaceutical researchers still publishing independent, peer-reviewed articles, just as there are still farmers who have small farms with the kinds of smiling animals one sees in children’s books. But more and more pharmaceutical research is done factory farm-style, with organized precision and efficiency. It is paid for and driven by companies, coordinated by professional publication planners, and presented by medical journals looking for prestigious articles, better impact factors, and more money.

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Big Tobacco’s Recipe for Success

by Kapil Khatter on September 3, 2013

Teen smokingIf Phillip Morris is indeed Satan, there appears to be no shortage of people willing to sleep in the devil’s bed. Confidential documents leaked recently about the tobacco company’s British lobbying efforts reveal just how many bed-mates the maker of Marlboro cigarettes has.

In its successful effort to stop plain cigarette packages from ruining years of expensive branding work, Phillip Morris put its campaign in the hands of lobbyist Lynton Crosby who just happens to have been the ruling Conservative Party’s election strategist. The result was a comprehensive plan to block the plain packaging law, legislation the government subsequently decided not to pursue.

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The Chemicals Obstetricians Are Speaking Out Against

by Kapil Khatter on June 24, 2013

Protecting the vulnerable from untested chemicalsThe Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of the United Kingdom says pregnant women should make an effort to avoid exposures to chemicals in consumer products.

Their new report, intended to guide health care professionals, takes a careful, patient-focused approach, advising a reduction in the use of paints, pesticides, cosmetics and other products that might be harmful during pregnancy. The dogs have started barking right away, with critics immediately slamming the obstetricians for scaremongering.

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What Do We Do When the Antibiotics Stop Working?

by Kapil Khatter on May 23, 2013

Antibiotics are losing their effectivenessGonorrhea, tuberculosis, staphylococcus — you didn’t want to get them before, and you definitely don’t want them now. These are some of the not so pretty faces of today’s antibiotic resistance, of today’s untreatable diseases.

And worse is yet to come, say prominent experts. They warn of a post-antibiotic world, a health care equivalent of climate change, where today’s easily treated infections becoming tomorrow’s common causes of serious illness and death. Suddenly, tonsillitis could be a big deal again, pneumonia a big killer, routine surgery no longer so routine given the risk of deadly infection.

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