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The Review

Health unit disavows new Motherisk website

Posted On: Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Grey Bruce Health Unit would like to advise that the website ‘Motherisk’, previously operated by The Hospital for Sick Children (Sick Kids), has been taken over by a third party and contains advice that in no way reflects the opinions of the health unit.

Health unit disavows new Motherisk website

This past spring the service was no longer being funded to provide consultation with Sick Kids nursing staff. The web domain was abandoned and picked up by a third party. Unfortunately, the new Motherisk website provides parenting information that the Grey Bruce Health Unit cannot endorse.

On November 19th, the Hospital for Sick Children issued the following alert on their website:  http://www.sickkids.ca/motherisk/index.html

The Grey Bruce Health Unit has previously recommended this site as a resource for expectant parents/parents. This website is referenced in print materials and other resources distributed by this organization including several Best Start resources shared with new parents through hospitals and family health teams.

The Grey Bruce Health Unit has stopped distribution of the materials we know to reference this website, including Best Start and Let’s Grow newsletters. Updated materials are being developed. Physician, family health teams, hospitals and other community partners are being informed and are taking their own measures to respond. All the links to Motherisk.org have been removed from our website.

For More Information:

Emily Powell

Manager, Healthy Baby Health Children Program

Grey Bruce Health Unit

519-376-9420 or 1-800-263-3456 ext. 1359

E.Powell@publichealthgreybruce.on.ca

 

BACKGROUND

 

Motherisk

UPDATE ON MOTHERISK.ORG

December 4, 2019 - SickKids is aware that the motherisk.org website is currently being operated by a third party. The Motherisk Helplines and website closed in April 2019. The domain name expired and was released following the closure. This was an oversight and multiple departments within SickKids are working to put procedures in place to prevent this type of occurrence in the future.

We know that many individuals and members of the medical community relied upon this website as a resource for up-to-date information about medications and other exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding.  

SickKids has alerted the public and the medical community that the information currently on motherisk.org is not endorsed by, and in no way represents, SickKids or the former Motherisk Helplines. We are concerned this content will be perceived to have been validated by SickKids experts.

We have reached out to the web host and registrar with cease and desist notices. Until recently, we were not aware of the identity of the domain owner. Now that we are aware, we will contact them directly.

STATEMENT: MOTHERISK WEBSITE NOT OPERATED BY SICKKIDS

November 19, 2019 - The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) wishes to alert the public and the medical community that the motherisk.org website is currently being operated by a third party and in no way represents SickKids or the former Motherisk Helplines.

In April 2019, the Motherisk Helplines and website closed, following years of declining grant funding leading to staff reductions, as well as unsuccessful efforts to secure an alternative host for the program.

Individuals with questions about medications and other exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding can contact their health-care providers.

STATEMENT REGARDING CLOSURE OF MOTHERISK HELPLINES

Updated May 16, 2019

April 16, 2019 - Today, the Motherisk Helplines are closing. The decision follows years of declining grant funding leading to staff reductions, as well as unsuccessful efforts to secure an alternative host for the program.  

The Motherisk Program was created at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in 1985. The program’s services addressed the lack of availability of up-to-date information about the risk and safety of medications and other exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding. As such, the Motherisk Helplines were popular with family physicians and obstetricians, as well as women during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. The number of calls to the Helplines has remained high, and closing the service was not an easy decision.

“Without sustainable, secure funding and absent an alternative, reputable organization to host and fund the Helplines, SickKids has made the difficult decision to close the program,” says Dr. David Naylor, SickKids Interim President and CEO. “SickKids also believes the program needs to be reinvented, set up with a clear national mandate, and tied more closely to the obstetrics and primary care communities. Physicians and scientists on our staff would be very happy to work with any new host organizations.”

The decision was based on three factors. First, the initiation of this program reflected the research interests and expertise of academic physicians on staff at the time. The Motherisk Helplines were funded through various external grants and donations. It was neither Ministry mandated, nor provincially funded, and thus its closure is unrelated to provincial funding.  

Over the last three years, those grants and donations have been reduced to zero. The Hospital does not believe it is appropriate to continue cross-subsidizing this service from an operating budget focused on complex care for some of the sickest children in Ontario and from across Canada.  

Second, the difficulty in seeking private support for the program reflected adverse publicity arising from concerns about the quality of work carried out by a hair analysis laboratory that also carried the Motherisk name. Consideration was given to re-naming and re-branding the Helplines. However, questions quickly arose as to whether this service was best hosted at a paediatric hospital.

A more logical alternative would be for the Helplines to be hosted at a hospital with substantial activity in caring for women during pregnancy and in the postnatal period. Ideally, such a service would be tied to national organizations of specialists in disciplines such as family medicine and obstetrics and gynaecology. We have explored some of these possibilities, and have emphasized that SickKids physicians and scientists would be pleased to continue to provide input on clinical pharmacology and toxicology in any transition. The challenge is that a major organizational and fundraising effort would be required, and the lack of an identifiable and consistent source of external funding remains a hurdle.

Among the considerations here is that the complexity of issues in this realm is steadily growing. Physicians are prescribing powerful new drugs based in modern molecular biology, and individual variation in drug metabolism has become clearer as the discipline of pharmacogenomics has grown. To remain relevant and cutting-edge, this program would need financial support above its previous peak levels.  

Third and finally, individuals with inquiries about medications and other exposures during pregnancy and while breastfeeding can contact their health-care providers.

SickKids is still accepting referrals to the Motherisk Clinic from health-care providers. The Motherisk Clinic is a specialized referral-only service that assesses the safety of medications and/or substances consumed by pregnant or nursing women and the potential effects on their babies. Health-care providers can continue to send referrals via EpicCareLink.  

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