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Joan E. Gadsby's Main Page

Joan E. Gadsby's Letter
to Jean Chrétien

October 1, 2000

Market-Media International Corp.
4507 Cedarcrest Ave., North Vancouver, BC, V7R 3R2, Canada
Phone: (604) 987-6064 Fax: (604) 987-6063

October 1, 2000


The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien,
Prime Minister of Canada,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, Ontario,
K1A 0A6
Fax: (613) 941-6900

Re: Urgent Need for National Strategic Action Plan - Benzodiazepines (Tranquillizers and Sleeping Pills) and Action By Health Canada

Dear Mr. Chrétien,

I am writing you on a very important issue - the serious and continuing problem of the misprescribing and misdiagnosis surrounding these legal drugs (tranquillizers and sleeping pills) which is regrettably and tragically not receiving concerted attention or action by the Federal Government and Health Canada in particular, inspite of my continued efforts over the past 10 years to raise this on the Government agenda.

As you are undoubtedly aware, these drugs are very addictive legal drugs which continue to be prescribed by doctors beyond established guidelines with very significant and adverse short and long term side effects.

This long standing major health issue has considerable socio-economic and implications in British Columbia, Canada and internationally, which costs millions of dollars and affects the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of men and women (of all ages), who unfortunately become "accidental addicts" and suffer the consequences from trusting their doctors to "do no harm".

The high cost to our socio-economic system with continued indiscriminate prescribing, dispensing and usage of these drugs includes not only health and safety in the work place, but career devastation, family dysfunction, productivity losses, insurance claims, car accidents, falls, lost years of peoples lives, lost lives, costs to the legal and justice system, workers' compensation board claims, social welfare costs, emergency admissions, physicians' fees, pharmacists' fees, detox facilities and increased overall costs for drugs, healthcare and other public/private sector services.

In 1981, Health and Welfare Canada published a guidebook, "It's Just Your Nerves" and in 1982 published and distributed a lengthy document entitled "The Effects of Tranquillization: Benzodiazepine Use in Canada" both expressing considerable concern with benzo use in Canada, extent of use, inappropriate prescribing, contraindications and serious side effects.

Regrettably, since these publications were produced and distributed, (almost 20 years ago) Health Canada (whose mandate is to protect the health and safety of Canadians) and other stakeholders have done minimal to address the issue of misprescribing, misdiagnosis and mistreatment surrounding these drugs, which has reached epidemic proportions in Canada. I discussed this latter publication in May this year with Monique Begin, former Health Minister for Canada in 1982, who is astounded at the lack of action after almost 2 decades.

Additional background on this seriously neglected issue (which has needlessly taken 5 Canadian lives in the past few months that I am personally aware of including a 20 year old woman) is included in my consulting proposal for a National Strategic Action Plan for Health Canada dated July 17, 2000 which is attached. A copy of my proposal I also forwarded to Health Minister Allan Rock, July 18, 2000 and to his Deputy Minister David Dodge. To date, I have received no response from either.

In spite of my repeated follow up phone calls to the Regional office of Health Canada in Vancouver and assurances by the Director, Lillian Bayne who is accountable to the Deputy Minister that she supports the need for my proposed national strategic action plan and would take my proposal to Health Canada in Ottawa to determine funding possibilities, little has happened. No commitment nor funding has been identified.

In addition, I met with Minister Hedy Fry and forwarded a copy to her as well as copies were sent to Mobina Jaffer, President of the Liberal Women's Commission of Canada and Ted McWhinney, MP, Chair of the Liberal Caucus for British Columbia whom I am told raised the issue at the national Caucus meting in Winnipeg in September.

What is particularly disappointing and unacceptable is the lack of response and action by the Health Minister Allan Rock whom I've spoken with several years ago, have written to and phoned repeatedly (with minimal response) since he succeeded Minister David Dingwall after the last Federal Election.

My continuing efforts and initiatives to create awareness of this problem and to effect action and much overdue systemic change have included the following:

  1. Presentation to the Standing Committee on Health April 1997 (no follow up by Health Canada)

  2. My Television Documentary "Our Pill Epidemic" - the shocking story of a society hooked on drugs for which I was Co Executive Producer with Jack McGaw formerly of CTV's W5 program. This documentary has aired nationally on CTV 3 times and although Federal government participation and funding were requested - none was received.

  3. Most recently my book "Addiction By Prescription" - one woman's triumph and fight for change was released by my publisher, Key Porter Books in early May this year.

My book is internationally endorsed by experts in the field and is based on my 10 years of research into this subject. My recent national publicity tour to 7 major Canadian cities received excellent response and support by all media and will continue to do so.

The TV documentary and book have precipitated hundreds of calls from Canadians from across the Country who have been similarly affected as I was and calling for: Federal Government leadership, commitment and action to address this serious issue.

I am also part of an international Benzodiazepine Awareness Network of hundreds of thousands of people and their families from around the world including Canada whose lives have been seriously affected by these legal drugs inappropriately prescribed. Since I have become an internationally recognized expert on this subject, I have been invited to speak at a major conference in London England in early November and I continue to receive speaking requests to outline causes, problems and solutions to this major health crisis.

My commitment to this issue and the need for the development and implementation of a national strategic action plan stems from personal experience when after the death of my son from a brain tumor in 1966 I was prescribed benzos for over 2 decades by my former family doctor. It was not until shortly after I nearly died of an unintentional overdose February 1990 that I found out the ramifications and serious effects of these drugs and went through a harrowing protracted withdrawal for 2 years. In the past decade I have completely rebuilt my physical, mental and emotional health at considerable cost to my life, my family, career and financial security. (This horrendous experience has cost me more than $1.4 million to date in lost income and assets.) My life today, 10 years off the drugs is tenfold what it was.

I sincerely believe that the Federal government needs to develop a multi stakeholder focused national strategic action plan as outlined in my consulting proposal of July 17, 2000 which is seeking Federal Government Funding and Participation to develop and implement same. I am also firmly convinced that with leadership and commitment by yourself and the Health Minister that "Together We Can Make a Difference".

We can hold Senate Hearings and a National Public Inquiry which will cost thousands of taxpayers dollars. I believe however, we know the problems and solutions and that the money would be better spent developing the strategic action plan and implementing same. At my meeting of July 6, 2000 with the Regional Director General West, Lillian Bayne it was suggested by her that a class action suit by the survivors/victims of benzodiazepine addiction may be required to effect the systemic change regarding the misprescribing and misdiagnosis surrounding these insidious drugs. I sincerely hope not. This situation is analogous to the Red Cross Blood Scandal in many people's view.

Your immediate involvement in this issue and direction to the Health Minister to take action is earnestly requested. I would be pleased to meet with you or the Health Minister (as requested previously on numerous occasions) to discuss my consulting proposal to Health Canada and the subject of these legal drugs and their serious consequences in creating "accidental addicts".

Please do not allow this issue to continue to fall into the "deep black hole" of inaction, delay, stonewalling, bureaucracy and politics in Canada as it has over the past decade. Lives have needlessly already been lost or devastated and the well documented socio economic costs to Canada are and continue to be extensive.

Your commitment, Mr. Prime Minister to Canada's healthcare system was reaffirmed following the recent well publicized Provincial Premiers' meetings on health. I therefore look forward to your early reply regarding action you have taken on this letter with attachments (particularly my proposal for the development of a national strategic action plan) to ensure that this serious and long neglected health issue is in fact addressed.


Joan E. Gadsby


  1. July 17, 2000 Consulting Proposal - National Strategic Action Plan - Tranquillizers and Sleeping Pills for Health Canada

  2. Press Release and Video Jacket - TV Documentary "Our Pill Epidemic"

  3. Press Release - "Addiction By Prescription" and Book Cover

  4. Resume and Former Councillor re-election brochure

  5. Press Clipping - January 21, 2000

  6. Press clipping - July 19, 2000

  7. Adverse Side Effects of Tranquilizers and Sleeping Pills

Note: Media clips and television excerpts from my recent national publicity tour are also available plus national press clippings.

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