09/12/2012 11:11 EDT | Updated 11/12/2012 05:12 EST

UBC drug researchers appeal for access to crucial data

Medical researchers at the University of B.C. are calling on the provincial government to return their access to Ministry of Health data after they were cut off in June in the midst of a police and internal government investigation.

It was revealed last week that improper use of some British Columbians’ confidential health information resulted in the firing and suspensions of ministry staff and the suspension of contracts with pharmaceutical researchers at UBC and the University of Victoria.

But the UBC researchers, collectively known as the Therapeutic Initiative, tell CBC News they are independent of government and industry, and they are being victimized.

Spokesman Dr. James Wright says critical drug research has been stalled since the government blocked their access to ministry data.

"We were hoping this was going to be short-lived and it wouldn’t significantly disrupt our work, but it’s now over two months," Wright said.

Wright said the disruption is threatening research into medicines to treat kidney damage, diabetes, difficult pregnancies and acne, to name a few.

“We track the utilization of drugs in British Columbia order to see the impact of the drugs on patients in the province.”

Wright said researchers need data access to everyday information that is anonymous and there has never been a problem —real or perceived — prior to June.

"What we are really asking now is that this needs to be re-looked at,” he said. “It’s really in the public interest that our data access be reinstated."

The product of the research work is turned over to the government and published in peer reviewed academic and medical journals, Wright said.