Health Research Gets Political in Canada

     VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) – A health data researcher claims in court that the British Columbia government fired and smeared him while he was investigating harmful effects of top-selling pharmaceuticals, because the B.C. Liberal Party feared that his work would affect political contributions from giant drug companies.
     Dr. William Warburton sued British Columbia and its Minister of Health, Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid, in B.C. Supreme Court.
     Warburton claims he was working on a contract with the B.C. government on research that “included investigation of harmful side effects, including mortality, and risk assessment of drugs purchased by the Province through its programs, and had the potential of disrupting financially significant payments to large pharmaceutical companies, many of whom were major contributors to the Liberal Party who formed the government in the Province.”
     He claims his research turned up evidence of harmful side effects and that drugs were being doled out for off-label uses.
     His research included drugs made by Bristol Meyers Squibb, AstraZeneca Canada, Eli Lilly Canada, Janssen, Pfizer, and Novartis.
     Warburton’s lawsuit comes a little more than a week before British Columbians go to the polls in a provincial election, where the long-serving, pro-business B.C. Liberal government is fighting for its life against a resurgent, labor-friendly New Democratic Party, which has been on the sidelines of government for more than a decade.
     Warburton claims that the governing B.C. Liberals had spearheaded programs to bring major drug companies to British Columbia, while “receiving significant contributions from these drugs companies, and the Province was eliminating drug safety programs that could cause restrictions on sales of the products of these drug companies, which sales overall reached the billions of dollars.”
     He claims the government axed his research fearing that big pharmaceutical firms would turn off the contribution faucet.
     In the summer of 2012, the government revoked access to certain data and later terminated his contract and suspended other employees over an alleged private data breach on Warburton’s watch.
     But Warburton says the investigation into the alleged breach “was flawed, superficial, politically motivated and conducted by novice, unqualified, inexperienced investigators.”
     He claims the government veiled details of the investigation and never allowed him to rebut the findings before they became public, and that the subsequent media coverage unfairly stained his reputation.
     He seeks punitive damages for breach of contract, interference and defamation.
     He is represented by Peter I. Waldmann in Victoria, B.C.

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