Canadian Researchers Allegedly Misuse Personal Health Data

Nature and extent of the reported breach is unclear.

An investigation into the alleged misuse of personal health information in university medical research has led to the firing of five employees of the British Columbia Ministry of Health and the suspension of two others, according to news reports.

Medical research conducted at the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria allegedly involved the illegal use of personal health information, said Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid, according to a report last Friday by CBC News.

The alleged breach, which involved the ministry’s Pharmaceutical Services Division, is under investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, according to the report. The nature and extent of the alleged data breach is unclear.

MacDiarmid said private medical information had been used for unapproved purposes.

The Health Ministry suspended a contract for research into Alzheimer’s disease medication with the University of Victoria’s Center on Aging earlier this month, according to an earlier CBC News report.

One of the suspended employees, co-director of evidence and research development Rebecca Warburton, issued a statement late last week saying that she expects to be exonerated, the Vancouver Sun reported. Her husband is a University of British Columbia researcher whose research contract was suspended because of the investigation, the Sun reported.

One of the fired employees, former project manager Ron Mattson, also issued a statement last week denying any wrongdoing, according to the newspaper report.