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Family doctors can no longer claim ritzy drug dinners as professional training

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Canadian family doctors can no longer earn educational credits for attending swanky drug dinners, where pharmaceutical companies wine and dine physicians at some of the country’s most upscale restaurants.

The change, part of larger efforts to protect the integrity of the continuing medical education doctors are obligated to take, is outlined in a new report released by the College of Family Physicians of Canada to its more than 38,000 members.

Although doctors can still choose to attend the dinners, they will not receive credits.

“Our view is that (the dinners) are basically marketing evenings,” said Dr. Jeff Sisler, who oversees medical education programming for the College.

“We’re trying in that decision to discourage members from that kind of learning, and remind them that it is not viewed by the College as appropriate continuing professional development.”

In Ontario, physicians are required to attend continuing medical education to keep their licence in good standing.

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Drug companies wine and dine family physicians

Critics have long said that in providing professional development, pharmaceutical companies are disguising a sales pitch as education, and doctors are encouraged to prescribe a sponsoring drug maker’s product over other options.

A 2016 Star investigation exposed questionable practices at some of these dinners, where everything from the speaker to the food and wine was bankrolled by the drug company. In Toronto, the soirees included a three-course meal at Sassafraz in Yorkville.

At more than one dinner, the Star found the speaker recommended a medication to treat certain conditions — the medication made by the same company that funded the event. In the days following a company-sponsored dinner lecture on managing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, a rep from the pharmaceutical company visited the clinic of one of the doctors who attended with samples of its latest product.

The new report reveals that the College’s professional development department received nearly $80,000 from the pharmaceutical industry in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The money came from fees drug companies paid to have their educational programs reviewed and certified.

Since tightening the rules last year to no longer certify educational events put on by drug companies, the College expects that amount of direct revenue from industry to drop to zero, the report said.

“That’s been a big change for us,” one prompted by concerns of a “high risk (of bias),” Dr. Sisler said.

But that change does not mean medical education will be completely free of industry money.

Pharmaceutical companies can still give money to groups putting on the educational events, though new restrictions put in place by the College and other doctor organizations bar the sponsoring drug makers from participating in choosing a speaker or developing the presentation.

In 2017-2018, 31 per cent of the applications to have an event certified by the College declared some kind of funding support from drug companies, the new report said.

Dr. Sheryl Spithoff, a family physician at the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, said the College needs to go further and not accredit any educational event put on by a group funded by industry.

“We know that when the pharmaceutical industry funds physician education, it leads physicians to prescribe drugs more often, and prescribe less appropriately,” Dr. Spithoff said

“What we really want to stop is to stop the influence,” she said. “The only way to change that appears to be stopping the funding.”

Dr. Sisler said the College, however, continues to support “a mixed model” of funding for professional development.

“There is no direction or intent at the moment to move to a time when pharma support is not permitted period. That isn’t the way things are moving at the moment,” he said.

Jesse McLean is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. He can be reached at jmclean@thestar.ca. Follow him on Twitter: @jesse_mclean



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Anglais

A stunning Water Lantern Festival is coming to Montreal

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What might just be the most magical night ever is coming up for Montreal this year.

The Water Lantern Festival has announced that it will be gracing Mississauga with thousands of floating lanterns later this year, as part of a celebration that spans the entire world.

According to the festival’s official website, the event is a celebration of life with proceeds going towards charities and non-profit organizations within the area.

“Water Lantern Festival brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one emotional and memorable night. At the Water Lantern Festival, we cherish these moments and will do our best to help you have a memorable experience that you’ll never forget as you witness the beauty of thousands of lanterns reflecting upon the water,” the website states.

The festival takes place throughout multiple cities around the world, with the Canadian cities of Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa, Mississauga, and, of course, Montreal taking part.

For the Calgary event, a date has been confirmed and tickets are already rolling out. Montreal shan’t be far behind, and you can click the Notify Me tab on the event’s site to be kept in the loop.

Expect an evening filled with food trucks, music, lantern designing and finally, a magical launch of the lanterns into the water as the sun goes down.

For our pals over in Calgary, their event includes a floating lantern, a commemorative drawstring bag, a marker, and a wristband. Expect something similar, if not the same, when more details float through about Montreal’s event.

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Anglais

Euthanasia order on hold for Montreal dog that attacked children

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A pit bull dog that attacked four children and two adults in August 2018 in Montreal North will not be euthanized in the immediate future.

The euthanasia order has been temporarily suspended pending the appeal of a Quebec Superior Court decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Lukasz Granosik rejected a request to halt the euthanasia order issued by the Montreal North borough, which declared the animal a “dangerous dog.”

The City of Montreal has not changed its mind. This is only a delay before it proceeds with euthanizing the dog, a source told the Canadian Press.

Shotta, the one-year-old dog, was in the care of its owner’s acquaintance in August 2018. The dog attacked four children and two adults, causing serious injuries in separate incidents on the same day.

After the attacks, the dog was taken from the home and entrusted to the SPCA.

WATCH: Dog found dead in Angrignon Park

The Road to Home Rescue Support, an American shelter, asked the court if it could take in the dog. Christa Frineau, the dog’s owner, had also asked that Shotta not be euthanized.

Granosik refused to grant the request.

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

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Anglais

9 Things To Do In Montreal This Friday, Saturday & Sunday

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Today’s sunny skies have me itching to make weekend plans. I absolutely cannot wait to make the most of this warmer weather. This might be the time to inflate my bike tires and dust off my running shoes…

Whether you want to brush up on your cooking skills, let loose, or fill your stomach with amazing food, there’s an event out there for you. Read on for 9 fun things you can do with friends or a fling this weekend.

TL;DR Read on for 9 fun things you can do in Montreal this weekend.

Let Yourself Go At Dress Up

Where: 185 Avenue Van Horne, Montréal.

When: Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m.

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