Terence Young, MP for Oakville Speaks on Vanessa’s Law during Second Reading Debate

Bill C-17 will Save Thousands of Lives by Reducing Adverse Drug Reactions

Vanessa with her father Terence Young MP Oakville
Terence Young, MP for Oakville Speaks on Vanessa’s Law during Second Reading Debate
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Peter Turkington

Peter Turkington

Peter Turkington is a communications consultant and political strategist based in Oakville with clients throughout Canada and the U.S. With 15 years in the communications field and 25 years in the political arena, he has designed integrated communications campaigns for companies of every size: enterprise, mid-size, and small business. He has also provided political campaign strategy and advice to leaders at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.

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On Friday, March 28, 2014, Terence Young rose in the House of Commons to endorse Vanessa’s Law (Bill C-17, the Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act) during second reading debate.

“I am honoured to be a member of the first Canadian government ever to tackle the largely hidden problem of injuries and deaths caused by prescription and over-the-counter drugs,” said Young. Today is a milestone for me and the Young family as well as for the government of Canada. I am here today due to a tragedy that took place exactly 14 years ago last week.”

On Saturday, March 18, 2000, without warning, Vanessa Young, for whom the Act is named, collapsed in front of her father.

“Her heart was stopped by the prescription drug Prepulsid, a drug we later found that she should never have been given,” continued Young. “Despite the valiant efforts of emergency ambulance services and doctors, Vanessa never regained consciousness and died the next day. We never had a chance to say goodbye.”

Within days of Vanessa’s passing, Terence began the journey that would lead him to the House of Commons. He started to research drug safety and quickly discovered that potentially life threatening drugs were being prescribed to patients who did not have life threatening conditions. Further research uncovered the relationship between big pharma and doctors.

“They get their first free lunch the first week of medical school and then go on naively to accept up to $4 billion a year, in North America, in gifts, lunches, dinners, even tickets and free trips from drug companies,” notes Young. “Sometimes I would ask them, do you think a drug company takes a bunch of doctors to the Bahamas out of kindness?”

Prescription drugs, taken as prescribed, are the fourth leading cause of death in North America. There are over 106,000 deaths a year just in hospitals and another 100,000 outside hospitals. That is about 20,000 deaths a year in Canada and 200,000 serious drug injuries.

Doctors can prescribe any drug at any time for any condition for any patient, even if it is never proven safe for such use. In fact, 70% of doctors prescribe off-label at least some of the time.


Even ordinary aspirin and ibuprofen cause thousands of deaths every year across North America, mostly from internal bleeding, yet most patients have never heard this.

“What happened to Vanessa could happen to anyone who takes drugs without proper safety warnings,” cautioned Young. “Nothing significant has changed since 2000 except for the current introduction of plain language labelling for drugs and this bill.”

Vanessa’s law will empower the Minister of Health to compel drug companies to change their labels to clearly reflect the true risk to patients from their drugs allowing patients to make informed decisions to take the drugs or not. It also gives the Minister of Health the power to order drugs that present a serious or imminent risk of injury or death off the market without delay.

“Had this been done with Prepulsid, instead of negotiating over weeks with Janssen-Ortho, Prepulsid would have been recalled, said Young. “Vanessa would be alive today, along with many others.”

Vanessa’s law will impose, for the first time, a duty on health care institutions to report all serious adverse drug reactions, which will capture any adverse drug reaction that causes patients to end up in a hospital or clinic, so that officials can be alerted to dangerous drugs
faster. This will help get them off the market and save lives.

Because of this law, for the first time, tough new penalties will be imposed for unsafe products, increasing fines from $5,000 a day to $5 million a day and the possibility of jail time for up to two years.

“Vanessa’s law represents the highest calling of a government, in my view,” said Young. “When the death of an innocent child can lead to definitive action by the Government of Canada to help prevent others from the same fate, our democracy is at its best. We can never have Vanessa back, but I can’t think of a better legacy than Bill C-17. She would be proud that it is protecting children, seniors and other vulnerable patients.”


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Readers Comments (1)

  1. Golden Herb says:

    majority knows that prescriptions have a high death rate and it is good to see a few doctors withholding or explaining the consequences that go with all drugs. Patients know however that we do have a choice whether to take the prescription or not. Here’s to health

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