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1.  Health Domains for Sale: The Need for Global Health Internet Governance 
A debate on Internet governance for health, or “eHealth governance”, is emerging with the impending award of a new dot-health (.health) generic top-level domain name (gTLD) along with a host of other health-related domains. This development is critical as it will shape the future of the health Internet, allowing largely unrestricted use of .health second-level domain names by future registrants, raising concerns about the potential for privacy, use and marketing of health-related information, credibility of online health content, and potential for Internet fraud and abuse. Yet, prospective .health gTLD applicants do not provide adequate safeguards for use of .health or related domains and have few or no ties to the global health community. If approved, one of these for-profit corporate applicants would effectively control the future of the .health address on the Internet with arguably no active oversight from important international public health stakeholders. This would represent a lost opportunity for the public health, medical, and broader health community in establishing a trusted, transparent and reliable source for health on the Internet. Countries, medical associations, civil society, and consumer advocates have objected to these applications on grounds that they do not meet the public interest. We argue that there is an immediate need for action to postpone awarding of the .health gTLD and other health-related gTLDs to address these concerns and ensure the appropriate development of sound eHealth governance rules, principles, and use. This would support the crucial need of ensuring access to quality and evidence-based sources of health information online, as well as establishing a safe and reliable space on the Internet for health. We believe, if properly governed, .health and other domains could represent such a promise in the future.
PMCID: PMC3961808  PMID: 24598602
eHealth; global health governance; information technology; Internet; domain names
2.  Policy versus practice: a community-based qualitative study of the realities of pharmacy services in Nunavut, Canada 
Nunavut is an Arctic territory in Canada subject to many social, economic and health disparities in comparison to the rest of the nation. The territory is affected by health care provision challenges caused by small, geographically isolated communities where staffing shortages and weather related access barriers are common concerns. In addition to national universal healthcare, the majority of the inhabitants of Nunavut (~85 %) are Inuit beneficiaries of no-charge pharmaceuticals provided through federal and/or territorial budgetary allocations. This research examines how existing pharmaceutical administration and distribution policies and practices in Nunavut impact patient care.
This grounded theory research includes document analysis and semi-structured interviews conducted in 2013/14 with patients, health care providers, administrators and policy makers in several communities in Nunavut. Thirty five informants in total participated in the study. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed and analyzed with qualitative data analysis software for internal consistency and emerging themes.
Four distinct themes emerge from the research that have the potential to impact patient care and which may provide direction for future policy development: 1) tensions between national versus territorial financial responsibilities influence health provider decisions that may affect patient care, 2) significant human resources are utilized in Community Health Centres to perform distribution duties associated with retail pharmacy medications, 3) large quantities of unclaimed prescription medications are suggestive of significant financial losses, suboptimal patient care and low adherence rates, and 4) the absence of a clear policy and oversight for some controlled substances, such as narcotics, leaves communities at risk for potential illegal procurement or abuse.
Addressing these issues in future policy development may result in system-wide economic benefits, improved patient care and adherence, and reduced risk to communities. The interview informants who participated in this research are best positioned to identify issues in need of attention and will benefit the most from policy development to address their concerns.
PMCID: PMC4576367  PMID: 26392866
Nunavut; Arctic; Pharmacy; Medication; Prescription; Policy; Remote
3.  A call for a moratorium on the .health generic top-level domain: preventing the commercialization and exclusive control of online health information 
In just a few weeks, the Internet could be expanded to include a new .health generic top-level domain name run by a for-profit company with virtually no public health credentials - unless the international community intervenes immediately. This matters to the future of global public health as the “Health Internet” has begun to emerge as the predominant source of health information for consumers and patients. Despite this increasing use and reliance on online health information that may have inadequate quality or reliability, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently announced it intends to move forward with an auction to award the exclusive, 10 year rights to the .health generic top-level domain name. This decision is being made over the protests of the World Medical Association, World Health Organization, and other stakeholders, who have called for a suspension or delay until key questions can be resolved. However, rather than engage in constructive dialogue with the public health community over its concerns, ICANN chose the International Chamber of Commerce—a business lobbying group for industries to adjudicate the .health concerns. This has resulted in a rejection of challenges filed by ICANN’s own independent watchdog and others, such that ICANN’s Board decided in June 2014 that there are “no noted objections to move forward” in auctioning the .health generic top-level domain name to the highest bidder before the end of the year. This follows ICANN’s award of several other health-related generic top-level domain names that have been unsuccessfully contested. In response, we call for an immediate moratorium/suspension of the ICANN award/auction process in order to provide the international public health community time to ensure the proper management and governance of health information online.
PMCID: PMC4177061  PMID: 25283176
eHealth; Global health governance; Information technology; Internet; Domain names; Health Internet
4.  Corruption in the health care sector: A barrier to access of orthopaedic care and medical devices in Uganda 
Globally, injuries cause approximately as many deaths per year as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, and 90% of injury deaths occur in low- and middle- income countries. Given not all injuries kill, the disability burden, particularly from orthopaedic injuries, is much higher but is poorly measured at present. The orthopaedic services and orthopaedic medical devices needed to manage the injury burden are frequently unavailable in these countries. Corruption is known to be a major barrier to access of health care, but its effects on access to orthopaedic services is still unknown.
A qualitative case study of 45 open-ended interviews was conducted to investigate the access to orthopaedic health services and orthopaedic medical devices in Uganda. Participants included orthopaedic surgeons, related healthcare professionals, industry and government representatives, and patients. Participants’ experiences in accessing orthopaedic medical devices were explored. Thematic analysis was used to analyze and code the transcripts.
Analysis of the interview data identified poor leadership in government and corruption as major barriers to access of orthopaedic care and orthopaedic medical devices. Corruption was perceived to occur at the worker, hospital and government levels in the forms of misappropriation of funds, theft of equipment, resale of drugs and medical devices, fraud and absenteeism. Other barriers elicited included insufficient health infrastructure and human resources, and high costs of orthopaedic equipment and poverty.
This study identified perceived corruption as a significant barrier to access of orthopaedic care and orthopaedic medical devices in Uganda. As the burden of injury continues to grow, the need to combat corruption and ensure access to orthopaedic services is imperative. Anti-corruption strategies such as transparency and accountability measures, codes of conduct, whistleblower protection, and higher wages and benefits for workers could be important and initial steps in improving access orthopaedic care and OMDs, and managing the global injury burden.
PMCID: PMC3492067  PMID: 22554349
5.  Transparency in Nigeria's public pharmaceutical sector: perceptions from policy makers 
Pharmaceuticals are an integral component of health care systems worldwide, thus, regulatory weaknesses in governance of the pharmaceutical system negatively impact health outcomes especially in developing countries [1]. Nigeria is one of a number of countries whose pharmaceutical system has been impacted by corruption and has struggled to curtail the production and trafficking of substandard drugs. In 2001, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) underwent an organizational restructuring resulting in reforms to reduce counterfeit drugs and better regulate pharmaceuticals [2]. Despite these changes, there is still room for improvement. This study assessed the perceived level of transparency and potential vulnerability to corruption that exists in four essential areas of Nigeria's pharmaceutical sector: registration, procurement, inspection (divided into inspection of ports and of establishments), and distribution.
Standardized questionnaires were adapted from the World Health Organization assessment tool and used in semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders in the public and private pharmaceutical system. The responses to the questions were tallied and converted to scores on a numerical scale where lower scores suggested greater vulnerability to corruption and higher scores suggested lower vulnerability.
The overall score for Nigeria's pharmaceutical system was 7.4 out of 10, indicating a system that is marginally vulnerable to corruption. The weakest links were the areas of drug registration and inspection of ports. Analysis of the qualitative results revealed that the perceived level of corruption did not always match the qualitative evidence.
Despite the many reported reforms instituted by NAFDAC, the study findings suggest that facets of the pharmaceutical system in Nigeria remain fairly vulnerable to corruption. The most glaring deficiency seems to be the absence of conflict of interest guidelines which, if present and consistently administered, limit the promulgation of corrupt practices. Other major contributing factors are the inconsistency in documentation of procedures, lack of public availability of such documentation, and inadequacies in monitoring and evaluation. What is most critical from this study is the identification of areas that still remain permeable to corruption and, perhaps, where more appropriate checks and balances are needed from the Nigerian government and the international community.
PMCID: PMC2775729  PMID: 19874613
6.  Exploring consumer and pharmacist views on the professional role of the pharmacist with respect to natural health products: a study of focus groups 
Natural health products (NHPs) such as herbs, vitamins and homeopathic medicines, are currently available for sale in most Canadian pharmacies. However, most pharmacists report that they have limited knowledge about these products which have been regulated in Canada as a specific sub-category of drugs. In this paper, consumers' and practicing pharmacists' perceptions of pharmacists' professional responsibilities with respect to NHPs are examined.
A total of 16 focus groups were conducted with consumers (n = 50) and pharmacists (n = 47) from four different cities across Canada (Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, and Halifax).
In this paper, we illustrate the ways in which pharmacists' professional responsibilities are impacted by changing consumer needs. Many consumers in the study utilized a wide range of information resources that may or may not have included pharmacists. Nevertheless, the majority of consumers and pharmacists agreed that pharmacists should be knowledgeable about NHPs and felt that pharmacists should be able to manage drug-NHPs interactions as well as identify and evaluate the variety of information available to help consumers make informed decisions.
This paper demonstrates that consumers' expectations and behaviour significantly impact pharmacists' perceptions of their professional responsibilities with respect to NHPs.
PMCID: PMC2483265  PMID: 18625059
7.  Canada's implementation of the Paragraph 6 Decision: is it sustainable public policy? 
Following the Implementation of Paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, Canada was among the first countries globally to amend its patent law, which resulted in Canada's Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR). CAMR allows the production and export of generic drugs to developing countries without the requisite manufacturing capacity to undertake a domestic compulsory license. CAMR has been the subject of much criticism lodged at its inability to ensure fast access to urgent medicines for least developing and developing countries in need. Only recently did the Canadian government grant Apotex the compulsory licenses required under CAMR to produce and export antiretroviral therapy to Rwanda's population.
The objective of this research is to investigate whether the CAMR can feasibly achieve its humanitarian objectives given the political interests embedded in the crafting of the legislation. We used a political economy framework to analyze the effect of varied institutions, political processes, and economic interests on public policy outcomes. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with nineteen key stakeholders from government, civil society and industry. Qualitative data analysis was performed using open-coding for themes, analyzing by stakeholder group.
CAMR is removed from the realities of developing countries and the pharmaceutical market. The legislation needs to include commercial incentives to galvanize the generic drug industry to make use of this legislation. CAMR assumes that developing country governments have the requisite knowledge and human resource capacity to make use of the regime, which is not the case. The legislation does not offer sufficient incentives for countries to turn to Canada when needed drugs may be procured cheaply from countries such as India. In the long term, developing and least developing countries seek sustainable solutions to meet the health needs of their population, including developing their own capacity and local industries.
CAMR is symbolically meaningful but in practice, limited. The Rwanda case will be noteworthy in terms of the future of the legislation. To meet its intended international health objectives, this legislation needs to be better informed of developing country needs and global pharmaceutical market imperatives. Finally, we contend that serious public policy change cannot strike a balance between all vested interests. Above all, any feasible policy that aims to facilitate compulsory licensing must prioritize public health over trade or economic interests.
PMCID: PMC2180169  PMID: 18062821

Results 1-7 (7)