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Ministry to restart about $1M of contracts suspended in probe

Sep 20 2012

Over the coming days, the B.C. Health Ministry will restart about $1 million worth of the $4 million in annual drug research contracts suspended earlier this month as part of an investigation into privacy breach allegations.
The suspended contracts were with the University of Victoria and the University of B.C. The Health Ministry would not say Wednesday where the research will resume. The research relates to drugs being reviewed for listing on the PharmaCare program formulary, as well as contracts that provide evidence to doctors to help them make decisions on prescriptions drugs for their patients, B.C. Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said.
On Wednesday, MacDiarmid said the government understands the value of the research and is happy to restart some of it this week.
“We have determined these contracts are not going to jeopardize the ongoing investigation and that the researchers in these cases have followed proper contract-procurement processes and proper data-management is actually being used without impacting or affecting personal information,” MacDiarmid said.
“We want to restart the other contracts as soon as we possibly can but some of them are still impacted by the ongoing investigation,” MacDiarmid said.
As part of an investigation that started in May, the Health Ministry has fired five health ministry employees and suspended two others without pay.
The government also suspended contracts worth $4 million with UVic and the UBC; drug and Pharma-Net data access for its drug researchers; and all work on contracts related to drug and evidence development.
The minister would not say what drugs are being reviewed or the name of the lead researcher, regarding the $1 million in drug and evidence research contracts that have been restarted.
MacDiarmid said she did not want to jeopardize the investigation, encroach on the personal privacy of any individual or say anything to identify anyone being investigated.
Victoria lawyer Chris Siver represents View Royal Coun. Ron Mattson, who was a 28-year Health Ministry employee and project manager for the Alzheimer’s Drug Therapy Initiative before he was fired Sept. 6.
“I wish they were that careful when linking my client with allegations of criminal wrongdoing,” Siver said Wednesday.
In a Sept. 6 press release, the Ministry of Health said it asked the RCMP to investigate allegations of inappropriate conduct, contracting and data-management practices involving ministry employees and drug researchers.
Malcolm Maclure, the co-director of research in the ministry’s pharmaceutical services division, was suspended without pay. He is suing the province for defamation and wrongful dismissal.
UVic spokeswoman Denise Helm said she had not been advised of which if any contracts have been restarted.
Calls to the UBC-based Therapeutics Initiative were not returned.
 The Health Ministry also announced it has hired the firm of Deloitte and Touche to assess how the ministry secures, releases and tracks data that is provided to researchers.
ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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