April 26, 1920

UNION

Newton Wesley Rowell (Minister presiding over the Department of Health; President of the Privy Council)

Unionist

Mr. ROWELL:

These are the drugs enumerated in the schedule to this Bill.

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L LIB
UNION

Newton Wesley Rowell (Minister presiding over the Department of Health; President of the Privy Council)

Unionist

Mr. ROWELL:

I have no objection to saying "any drug specified in this Act," though that is the effect of the Bill.

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L LIB
UNION

Newton Wesley Rowell (Minister presiding over the Department of Health; President of the Privy Council)

Unionist

Mr. ROWELL:

I am quite prepared to7 do that, but I think my hon. friend overlooks the serious character of these drugs; these drugs are looked upon, and in fact are so deleterious to health, if taken in excess, that the greatest precautions are thrown around their prescription and administration. They do not cure: they allay pain. They create conditions that will tend to a cure under certain definite conditions depending on the health of the individual to whom they are administered. They do not possess any curative properties in themselves. They are hypnotic in their influence. I am quite prepared to say "any drug covered by this Act."

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L LIB

Isaac Ellis Pedlow

Laurier Liberal

Mr. PEDLOW:

Would it not be wise to make provision in the Bill that ordinary patent medicines containing a small proportion of these drugs shall be exempt under the Act? I understand that in the United States there is a law known as the Harrison Law, under which preparations and remedies which do not contain more than 2 grains of opium, or more than i grain morphine, or more than i grain heroin, or more than 1 grain codeine, or any salt or derivative of any of them, in a fluid ounce, are exempt. I think some such provision should be made in this Bill.

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UNION

Newton Wesley Rowell (Minister presiding over the Department of Health; President of the Privy Council)

Unionist

Mr. ROWELL:

If my hon. friend will read Friday's Hansard he will find that I have given notice of an amendment to cover that point. We will come to it on a later section.

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L LIB

Isaac Ellis Pedlow

Laurier Liberal

Mr. PEDLOW:

I think the subject matter of this Bill is so technical that it would be better to refer it to a special committee where all parties concerned could have an opportunity of being heard. Any member of this House who is not a druggist or a manufacturing chemist or a member of the medical profession must find it difficult to follow the ideas that were in the minds of those who framed this Bill. It seems to me that it is designed particularly to prevent

druggists from selling their regular lines of patent medicines containing a small proportion of drugs of this kind. We all know that the medical profession is an admirable one, but the members of it are only human like the rest of us. I need only refer to what has happened in connection with the administration of the prohibition law in the province of Ontario during the last twelve months. Unlike Caesar's wife,

. the physicians are not above suspicion; and they are liable-

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UNION

Matthew Robert Blake

Unionist

Mr. BLAKE:

I must ask the hon. member'to substantiate his accusation.

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L LIB

Isaac Ellis Pedlow

Laurier Liberal

Mr. PEDLOW:

The hon. gentleman

should read the press. One member of the profession is reported to have issued as many as 1,200 prescriptions in a month, and I am sure the minister will himself admit that this number of prescriptions, issued in so short a time, is at least sufficient to create suspicion.

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UNION

Newton Wesley Rowell (Minister presiding over the Department of Health; President of the Privy Council)

Unionist

Mr. ROWELL:

My hon. friend is a much better judge on that point that I.

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L LIB

Isaac Ellis Pedlow

Laurier Liberal

Mr. PEDLOW:

I have certain letters

which have been written with regard to this legislation, and one communication from a druggist practising in the town of Chesley, Ontario, I should like very much to read to the committee, because it is pertinent to the subject under consideration. This letter reads:

Dear Sir,-Were the public at large to realize fully the effect of the provisions of the Opium and Drug Act now before the House, a storm of protest and disapproval would undoubtedly be raised for its immediate repeal.

Unquestionably no such radical enactment as this Act provides for would ever be conceived without the efforts of sinister and designing influences who stand to profit thereby. Personally I have only realized its significance during the last few days, and I am sure that a measure containing such arbitrary legislation will not knowingly receive your support in the House. In the past practically all the better known and reliable cough medicines have contained small quantities of sedataive drugs, certainly most valuable where their helpful use is indicated. Today practically every physician buys his cough mixtures in bulk (I know this to be a fact because I supply them), and these compounds contain just the same narcotic drugs, compounded in just the same manner as do the reliable so-called patent medicine lines. The difference is just this, the patient goes to the drug store and invests 25c. for his treatment instead of going to the medical man and paying $1.00 for a like article. This certainly would bring much grist to the medical man, but is it in the interests of the masses of the people? Certainly not.

Take another line of medicines which have and do serve a most valuable purpose, i.e., the wild strawberry compounds. I can well imagine the feelings of the citizen living in rural

sections who finds it expedient to have a hottle of the above on hand. An attack of dysentery would mean under the present provisions of the Act that the individual would have to drive to town to have his physician prescribe or administer a dose of an astringent medicine, and then back again in case the first dose was not effective. All effective dysentery remedies contain proper dosages of opium, and whose use in this connection cannot possibly be abused.

The amendments proposed to the Act are such as will overcome the above and similar injustices and still effectively protect the public from the indiscriminate use of narcotic drugs. These amendments provide for the quantity of said drugs to be contained in a given quantity of the medicine. I trust that you are giving careful consideration to this Act and will support proper amendments which will safeguard the public and prevent an injustice to both the public and the druggists, whose Joint interests are so vitally involved.

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UNION

Matthew Robert Blake

Unionist

Mr. BLAKE:

By whom is that letter written, and to whom is it addressed?

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L LIB

Isaac Ellis Pedlow

Laurier Liberal

Mr. PEDLOW:

The letter I have just read is addressed to R. E. Truax, M.P., and it is signed by S. R. Davey, Phm. B. I do not know what these initials* stand for. I have another letter signed by some druggists of Renfrew, Ont. I shall not read the letter, but the druggists are: W. B. Clark, W. A. Cameron, D. J. Ritza, and Fraser and Smart.

I also have a similar communication, written on stationery of Henry K. Wampole and Company, and bearing the name of a prominent member of Parliament from the county of Lanark.

I think that a Bill of this kind, Mr. Chairman, could be much more effectively dealt with by a special committee, and I now therefore move that this Bill be referred to a special committee of the House in order that opportunity may be given to all parties interested to be heard and to give fud expression to their views upon the subject.

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L LIB

Georges Henri Boivin (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Laurier Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

The hon. member's

motion is not in order. It is impossible for the comittee of the House to refer a Bill to a special committee. That motion must be made by the House itself.

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L LIB

Isaac Ellis Pedlow

Laurier Liberal

Mr. PEDLOW:

I trust that at the proper time I shall have an opportunity of making this motion.

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UNION

Samuel Francis Glass

Unionist

Mr. GLASS:

I have received several letters along the same lines as the letter which the hon. member (Mr. Pedlow) has read to the committee. A denudation of members met a large gathering of druggists here two or three weeks ago, and I believe that the objections that were urged by those druggists at the time were properly laid before the minister, and it is as a result of the representations that they then made that these amendments are now before the House. As

I understand these amendments, they cover all the ground asked for by the druggists. What the hon. member for Renfrew (Mr. Pedlow) has just suggested is simply repeating what was urged'in hundreds of letters and telegrams sent to the House, that our Act should be amended to embody the provisions of the Harrison Act in operation in the United States. I must express my sympathy with the hon. member for Renfrew to this extent, that, due possibly to a lack of technical knowledge of matters of this kind, we are very apt to pass legislation and afterwards discover that we have made mistakes. And to some extent the amendments which we are asked to make today are due to the fact that the legislation we passed last year was not wisely considered nor fully understood. The tendency of the House is to assume too much an attitude of paternalism, which tends to make the people restless; and it is unfortunate that the House should pass legislation only to be repealed and re-enacted in some other form the year following.

I think it would be better to refer the consideration of these subjects to a committee which understands them rather than that we should arrive at conclusions in Com-.mittee of the Whole without a proper knowledge by the members of the subject undediscussion. But in view of the full representations that were made and in view of the fact that the minister has tried to meet these representations, possibly all the objections the druggists have had are fully covered by the amendments here.

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UNION

Matthew Robert Blake

Unionist

Mr. BLAKE:

This House has listened to many speeches from the hon. member for South Renfrew (Mr Pedlow) but I doubt if it has ever listened to one quite so absurd and illogical as that with which he has just favoured us. He takes to task a learned profession which he seems to be very little conversant with and he says that very few members of the medical profession are trustworthy. Let me say to the my hon. friend that I am satisfied- that the medical profession can set up a cleaner record than his craft the retail clothiers, who have certainly not done anything to quiet the unrest which prevails throughout the country. He says that one member of the medical profession issued 1,200 prescriptions for liquor in a month. During the influenza epidemic I was making some fifty visits a day and I prescribed whiskey for every one of my patients. If you will figure that up you will see what it amounts to in a month. I do not know whether I prescribed 1,200 in a month or not but I pretty nearly

did anyway. I never knew a patient who took half a tumbler of whiskey, went to bed and stayed there, who did not get better of influenza. If the doctors had not prescribed whiskey, there are a great many people now roaming around who would be sleeping in the churchyard. If the whole medical profession appreciated the value of whiskey in certain cases, especially influenza, the results would be much more satisfactory. There is no comparison between the results obtained by those who treated influenza with whiskey and the results obtained by those temperance cranks who did not prescribe whiskey. Twelve hundred prescriptions a month during the epidemic were nothing out of the ordinary for a physician with a large practice to prescribe.

The prescribing of drugs such as this Bill deals with cannot be thrown wide open so that the person obtaining a prescription can have it repeated as many times as he wishes. In Winnipeg and other large centres we have many morphine and dope fiends and the only way in which we can hope to cure them is by cutting down the number of their prescriptions and reducing the quantity, and many have been cured in that way. If I were to write a prescription for a gramme of morphine and give to a person, and if that person could go to a druggist and have it filled as often as he wished, we might as well have no law whatever governing the sale of drugs. The small amount of two grains of morphine put in a cough medicine to be taken in eight doses is not going to do anybody any harm. People can get these patent medicines if they want them but when it comes to the prescription of morphine, cocaine, or any of the drugs that the schedule to this Bill contains, it is absolutely impossible to fling the door wide open. The hon. member for Maple Creek (Mr. Maharg) has spoken about farmers driving thirty-five or forty miles to town for medicine but you do not find these dope fiends out on the wide prairie. The people there live healthy lives and they have no need for drugs. It is only in the large centres of population that we find the dope fiends, and all they have to do is to go half a mile, or any short distance within the limits of the city, to get their prescription refilled. It is absolutely essential, if we hope to control the sale of drugs and help these people to get this habit out of their lives, to make it necessary that they must come for another prescription. It is not because the physician takes a mercenary view of this matter. I have only one dope fiend under my care. I

do not know where she gets the money to buy the dope; she has never any to pay for the prescription and while I have given her six or seven doses, I am gradually bringing down the quantity. But, I have never got a penny for the prescription. ,1 think many other medical men have had the same experience. These poor people are generally extremely hard up, and they would be better without the drug. Unfortunately we have no institutions in Canada to which we can compel them to go and be cured. When they go into hospitals of their own free will the hospitals and the medical men are willing to treat them and they gradually reduce the quantity of the drug. The patients have nothing to do with administering the drug; it is given to them by the nurses and attendants and they finally are cured, and they can be cured if they set their minds to it and had sufficient determination. But it is absolutely hopeless to cure them if they are allowed to get a prescription refilled as many times as they wish. In some iAstances one prescription will serve a whole community because birds of a feather flock together, these people know each other, they congregate in districts, and one prescription may suffice to satisfy the whole lot if they can have it refilled constantly.

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UNION

John Alexander Stewart

Unionist

Mr. J. A. STEWART:

Reference has been made by the hon. member for East Middlesex (Mr. Glass) and also by the hon. member for South Renfrew (Mr. Pedlow) to the representations made by the retail druggists when they waited on the minister some few weeks ago. The suggestion to refer the Bill to a special committee so that these representations might be considered further was made by the hon. member for South Renfrew. I was privileged to be present and to take part in the interview with the minister on the 7th April. I am sure that the amendment as suggested by the President of the Privy Council, and contained in Hansard of Friday, substantially covers the request made by that deputation relative to the terms of the Bill as originally drawn, with the exception of some matters of detail which will be dealt with when the sections are reached. There will consequently be no necessity to refer the Bill to a special committee for the purpose suggested by the hon. member for South Renfrew.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I may say for the information of my hon. friend from South Renfrew (Mr. Pedlow) that before this deputation waited on the minister I

sent to the minister some communications received from the druggists and asked that they be given attention in connection with the Bill. I have understood from the minister that the particular matters referred to in these communications were those taken up by the deputation that waited on the Government and that the points to which special attention has been directed have been covered by the suggested amendments. If that be so, I do not see that any useful purpose would be served by referring the Bill to a special committee at this stage. If on the contrary the minister cannot assure us that the representations made by the druggists have been covered in a satisfactory way, there is something in the suggestion and it should receive consideration.

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April 26, 1920