Jason Kenney and the pharmaceutical pipeline - 2020-05-05
Halfway through April, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney attempted to extend his pipeline-based governance model to the pharmaceutical pipeline, tweeting "I have directed our officials to consider use of COVID19 tests, vaccines, or medications that have been approved by the high standards of at least one credible peer country's drug agency, e.g. (EU Medicines Agency, US FDA). We won't wait for Health CDA to play catch up." He would reiterate these sentiments on CBC's Power and Politics.
Yet while any wider aspirations to Alberta usurping Health Canada's regulatory role have rightly been shot down as, among other things, constitutionally dubious, most responses to his comments have overlooked the fact that there actually is a perfectly legal way for Alberta to import drugs approved in certain foreign jurisdictions, but not by Health Canada. It just may not be a mechanism that fits Kenney's approach to governing.
The Access to Drugs in Exceptional Circumstances pathway was created in 2017. It allows an individual jurisdiction (like a province or territory, but also some federal bodies) to temporarily import a drug or vaccine not approved by Health Canada, but approved in the United States, European Union or Switzerland, in response to an "urgent public health need." So far, so good for Kenney's tweet manifesting in reality (though it doesn't extend to products approved in Australia as he mused on Power and Politics). There are still a range of barriers, however, to Alberta importing a new COVID-19 drug or vaccine.