Corporate Influence in Medicine Sparks Canada-US Women's Strategy Meeting


Women's health activists concerned about the risks of for-profit medicine meet at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax May 12-14, at a workshop called Gathering Forces. The cross-border strategy meeting has attracted leading community activists, physicians, academics and health policy makers from across Canada and the USA.

The growing influence of pharmaceutical companies tops the list of concerns. "Direct to consumer ads for prescription drugs are one of the issues we will tackle," says Anne Rochon Ford, coordinator of the Working Group on Women and Health Protection. The ads are banned in Canada, but are legal in the United States. "We want the federal government to crack down on companies that are flouting the ban. The American collaborative, Putting People First, wants a ban on the ads that are flooding American TV and magazines."

Beginning Saturday morning, Gathering Forces will build support among Atlantic region activists, kicking off a cross-Canada campaign to oppose prescription drug ads to consumers. On Sunday and Monday, members of the two coalitions will discuss ways they can influence health policies on both sides of the border.

"For-profit medicine has shifted the battle lines of the women's health movement," says the workshop's organizer, Sharon Batt, who teaches women's health at MSVU. "We're still fighting for safety and autonomy in health decisions, but the struggle is no longer between the woman and her doctor. Today, we are far more concerned about the power of drug companies. A lot of physicians are as worried as we are."

Other sessions will look at the effects of hormonal pollution in the environment, drug-company funding of women's health groups, how drug companies influence doctors, and the Canada Drug Guide -- a project to create unbiased information for the public.

Monday's highlight is a free public lecture by Judy Norsigian co-founder of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective. The talk, at 12:30 in Vinnie's Pub at the campus's Rosaria Student Centre, is titled, "The Media and Women's Health: Sorting Fact from Fiction" Immediately following the talk, at 2 PM, a press conference will present the workshop's women's health "Manifesta".

For more information, please contact:

Sharon Batt, Nancy's Chair in Women's Studies,
Mount Saint Vincent University (Halifax)
Tel: 902-443-1352  E-mail: sharon.batt@MSVU.CA

Anne Rochon Ford, Coordinator,
the Working Group on Women and Health Protection (Toronto)
Tel: 416-488-8995  E-mail:

Lisa Wanzor, Coordinator,
Putting People First Collaborative (San Francisco)
Tel: (415) 243-9301 x18  E-mail:


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Supported by the Women's Health Contribution Program,
administered by the Gender and Health Unit of Health Canada.

In partnership with The Canadian Women's Health Network.