30 minutes

Vanessa's Law and Mandatory Reporting

Published on
February 4, 2024
The contents presented here are republished to serve our healthcare community by informing and distributing knowledge from respected sources.
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Recast - Audio Summary

Table of Contents

Staff Writer

Key Points to Remember

  • The _Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act _(Vanessa's Law) introduces amendments to the Food and Drugs Act, including mandatory reporting of serious adverse drug reactions (serious ADRs) and medical device incidents (MDIs) by health care institutions.
  • The Act aims to improve the quality and quantity of serious ADR and MDI reports to **strengthen the safety oversight **of therapeutic products.
  • The reporting of serious ADRs and MDIs contributes to identification of emerging safety issues, **assessment **of harm vs. benefit, sharing of learning, and **improvement **of product safety.
  • The mandatory reporting regulations require **hospitals to report in writing **serious ADRs and MDIs to Health Canada **within 30 calendar days of first documentation **of the reaction or incident within the hospital.
  • These regulations apply to therapeutic products, defined as: pharmaceuticals (prescription and non-prescription), biologic drugs, radiopharmaceutical drugs, disinfectants and medical devices.
  • There are **required data elements **for mandatory reporting of serious ADRs and MDIs.

Module 1: Overview of Vanessa’s Law and reporting requirements

Mandatory Reporting of Serious Adverse Drug Reactions and Medical Device Incidents by Hospitals. Source:

Educational Support for Mandatory Reporting

  • The educational materials provide core content about serious adverse drug reaction (serious ADR) and medical device incident (MDI) reporting that can be used by hospitals, health care leadership, health care providers, patients and families, and educators.
  • There are 4 PowerPoint modules:
    • **Module 1 **– Overview of Vanessa’s Law and Reporting Requirements
    • **Module 2 **– Reporting Processes to Health Canada
    • **Module 3 **– Strategies to Promote and Support Mandatory Reporting
    • **Module 4 **– Health Canada’s Review and Communication of Safety Findings
  • **The educational materials (as entire modules or individual slides or selected content) can be used to explain, describe, or promote serious ADR and MDI reporting. **Source of this educational material may be acknowledged as: Educational Support for Mandatory Reporting. Health Canada; 2019.

Goals of the Education Approach

  • Support the implementation of a key provision of the Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa’s Law) by providing stakeholders with information on Health Canada's new regulatory requirements for serious ADR and MDI reporting
  • Describe the reporting processes for hospitals to meet the mandatory reporting requirements
  • Provide strategies for health care leadership and health care providers to promote and support reporting of serious ADRs and MDIs documented within hospitals
  • Describe Health Canada’s review and communication of safety findings

Module 1 - Learning Outcomes

Completion of Module 1 will enable you to:

  • Explain the purpose of Vanessa's Law
  • Describe the regulations for mandatory reporting by hospitals of serious ADRs and MDIs
  • Recognize the required data elements for mandatory reporting of serious ADRs and MDIs

Module 1 - Outline

  • Purpose of Vanessa’s Law
  • Regulations for Mandatory Reporting
    • Who is required to report?
    • What are the definitions of a serious ADR and MDI?
    • What products are in scope of these regulations?
    • When must hospitals report?
  • Required Data Elements
    • Serious ADR report
    • MDI report
  • Key Points to Remember
  • Abbreviations
  • Resources

Purpose of Vanessa’s Law

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)

The _Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act _(Vanessa's Law) introduces amendments to the _Food and Drugs Act _to improve Health Canada's ability to:

  • collect post-market safety information;
  • take appropriate action when a serious risk to health is identified; and
  • promote greater confidence in the oversight of therapeutic products by increasing transparency.

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law) Amendments to the _Food and Drugs Act _include:

  1. Power to require information, tests or studies
  2. Power to require a label change/package modification
  3. Power to recall unsafe therapeutic products
  4. Ability to disclose information in certain circumstances
  5. Tougher measures for those that do not comply
  6. Mandatory reporting of serious adverse drug reactions and medical device incidents by health care institutions*

*Regulatory amendments give effect to this authority and further define health care institutions as hospitals under section C.01.020.1 of the Food and Drug Regulations and section 62 of the Medical Device Regulations.

Source: Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law) Amendments to the Food and Drugs Act (Bill C-17)

Who was Vanessa?

  • Vanessa Young died in 2000, at the age of 15, of a cardiac arrhythmia after taking cisapride (Prepulsid®) as prescribed.
  • A campaign for increased regulation of therapeutic products subsequently led to greater powers for Health Canada to request safety data from hospitals and industry about drugs and medical devices.
  • **Vanessa’s Law **was enacted in 2014 and the mandatory reporting requirements come into effect December 16th, 2019.

Why Is Mandatory Reporting of Serious ADRs and MDIs Important?

  • Health Canada is continuously looking for ways to strengthen its knowledge base on product safety in the interest of improving patient outcomes and public health.
  • Serious ADR and MDI reports are important sources of information for identifying emerging safety issues.
  • Under-reporting and poor quality of reports is an issue in all countries. An international systematic review estimated that only 2-18% (median of approximately 6%) of ADRs are reported. Footnote 1

What Are the Benefits of Serious ADR and MDI Reporting?

Serious ADR and MDI Reporting Contributes to:

  • Identification of emerging safety issues related to drugs and medical devices
  • Assessment of harm vs. benefit of drugs and medical devices
  • Sharing of learning, including warnings and advisories for health care providers, patients, and stakeholders
  • Improvement of safety of products through risk mitigation such as a labelling change, a product information update, or a recall

Serious ADR and MDI Reporting and Learning

  • Under Vanessa’s Law, the reporting of serious ADRs and MDIs to Health Canada is mandatory by hospitals.
  • Analysis and shared learning from these reports contribute to achieving the goal of providing safer health care and health products.

Regulations for Mandatory Reporting

Who Is Required to Report?

The regulations apply to all hospitals.

The regulations define a **hospital **as a facility that:

  • is licensed, approved or designated as a hospital by a province or territory, in accordance with the laws of the province or territory, to provide care or treatment to persons suffering from any form of disease or illness; or
  • is operated by the Government of Canada and provides health services to in-patients.


  • Outpatient clinics are subject to the regulations if they are legally part of the hospital, even if they are physically separate from the hospital. On the other hand, clinics that may be physically located within a hospital, but that are not legally part of the hospital, will not be subject to the regulations.
  • Health care institutions that are outside the scope of the definition of hospitals, such as private clinics or long-term care facilities (e.g., nursing homes), continue to be encouraged to report on a voluntary basis.

What are the Definitions of a Serious ADR and MDI?

A**_ serious adverse drug reaction (serious ADR) _**is a noxious and unintended response to a drug that occurs at any dose and that

  • requires in-patient hospitalization or prolongation of existing hospitalization,
  • causes congenital malformation,
  • results in persistent or significant disability or incapacity,
  • is life-threatening, or
  • results in death.

A **_medical device incident (MDI) _**is an incident related to a failure of a medical device or a deterioration in its effectiveness, or any inadequacy in its labelling or in its directions for use that has led to the death or a serious deterioration in the state of health of a patient, user, or other person, or could do so were it to recur.

Note: Hospitals are not required to establish causality; the information to be submitted by the hospital to Health Canada only needs to represent the suspicions of a health care professional that a serious ADR or MDI has been observed.

What Products Are In Scope of these Regulations?

The mandatory reporting requirements for hospitals apply to therapeutic products, including:

  • Pharmaceuticals (prescription and non-prescription drugs)
  • Biologic drugs (biotechnology products, fractionated blood products, plasma proteins, and vaccines [excluding vaccines administered under a routine immunization program of a province or territory])
  • Radiopharmaceutical drugs
  • Disinfectants
  • Medical devices
  • Drugs for an urgent public health need

When in doubt, Health Canada encourages hospitals to report.

Source: Mandatory reporting of serious adverse drug reactions and medical device incidents by hospitals - Guidance document

Types of Medical Devices Included

The term **medical device **covers a wide range of health and/or medical instruments used in the treatment, mitigation, diagnosis or prevention of a disease or abnormal physical condition.

Medical devices are classified into Class I (lowest risk) to Class **IV **(highest risk). Examples are:

  • Class I – hospital beds, wheelchairs, leg prostheses
  • Class II – infusion sets, syringes, tracheostomy tubes, urethral catheters
  • Class III – infusion pumps, anesthesia gas machines, intrauterine devices
  • Class IV – pacemakers, defibrillators, breast implants, bone grafts

All classes of medical devices are included in mandatory reporting by hospitals.

Source: Guidance Document - Guidance on the Risk-based Classification System for Non-In Vitro Diagnostic Devices (non-IVDDs)

When Must Hospitals Report?

The regulations require hospitals to report serious ADRs or MDIs in writing to Health Canada **within 30 calendar days of first documentation **of the serious ADR or MDI within the hospital.

Information “Within the Control of the Hospital”

The regulations require hospitals to report all documented serious ADRs and all documented MDIs, where the required information is within the control of the hospital.

  • Information that is within the control of the hospital is information that would be reasonably accessible within the hospital.
  • While it is encouraged for hospitals to take all reasonable steps to retrieve the required information to complete as thorough a report as possible, there is no requirement to do further investigation in order to obtain the pieces of information.

Examples of Documentation Within the Hospital

Examples of serious ADR or MDI documentation within the hospital include:

  • a serious ADR or MDI that is identified in a patient’s clinical/medical record;
  • a serious ADR or MDI that is identified in a separate report form (electronic or hard copy) that has been completed by a health care professional; and
  • a serious ADR or MDI that has been documented in an ADR form or a product complaint form (e.g., an MDI form) as per internal hospital policy, a pathology report, an incident/patient safety learning database, or a computerized prescription recording system.

Health Canada’s Compliance Approach

  • Health Canada has implemented an oversight mechanism to verify that reports are being received and that they are complete and provide information of sufficient quality to meet the regulatory requirements.
  • When a situation of non-compliance is identified, Health Canada will work with hospitals to help them meet the mandatory reporting requirements under Vanessa’s Law, building on guidance, outreach and education efforts.
  • In the event that Health Canada identifies instances of more persistent non-compliance, additional compliance and enforcement measures could be taken by the Regulatory Operations and Enforcement Branch.
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