[Ip-health] (LAST CALL for endorsements by Nov 19): international NGO statement in support of bill to reform Canada's law on exporting generic medicines

Richard Elliott relliott at aidslaw.ca
Sun Nov 18 14:29:42 PST 2012

(Please see statement below, which was previously circulated for signatures.  Thank you if your organization has already endorsed.  If not, please let us know by the end of the day in your local time zone on Monday, November 19th if you would like to endorse.  Send your endorsement to gwitkowski at aidslaw.ca.  For more info, see www.medicinesforall.ca.  Thanks for the support.) 

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

November 14, 2012

Dear colleagues:

I write to ask for endorsement by civil society organizations around the world on a letter to Canada's Parliament in support of the ongoing campaign to fix Canada's law on compulsory licensing of pharmaceuticals to enable exports of lower-cost generics to eligible developing countries, commonly referred to as "Canada's Access to Medicines Regime" (CAMR).  The text of the letter appears below, along with some additional information.

We are asking for organizations to send us their endorsement by email to Gilleen at gwitkowski at aidslaw.ca.  The deadline for endorsements is the end of the day on Monday, November 19th.

In 2004, Canada passed legislation to implement the WTO Decision of August 30, 2003 on compulsory licensing of patented pharmaceuticals to permit generic exports.  For some years, civil society activists in Canada have been pressing for reforms to streamline the current cumbersome law.  Last year, we succeeded in passing a private member's bill through the House of Commons with a very solid majority of votes - including from an impressive number of backbenchers belonging to the governing Conservative Party, even though the government has to date opposed the legislation.  Unfortunately, that bill was stalled in the Senate and was wiped off the legislative slate when Parliament was dissolved for a general federal election.

Several months ago, the key reforms previously endorsed by the House of Commons were re-introduced, in a new private member's bill.  As with the previous bill, Bill C-398 would make two key reforms to the existing law:  (1) it would broaden the scope of eligible pharmaceutical products to match that already agreed upon at the WTO; and (2) it would streamline the existing compulsory licensing process with a "one licence solution" that would make the system more straightforward and economically viable to use, so as to supply any eligible countries with the required quantities of a medicine as their needs evolve.

For more info about CAMR and proposed reforms to fix it, please see www.medicinesforall.ca. 

For a story from today's Globe and Mail regarding the state of play, see: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/generic-drug-legislation-ready-for-a-rematch-in-house/article5268892/.  

For the last few months, a wide coalition of Canadian civil society organizations has been confirming and building support among Members of Parliament for Bill C-398.  But it faces some entrenched opposition and even though the reforms were previously passed by a majority of MPs, it is by no means guaranteed to succeed this time around as we try to get the job finished.

This bill is scheduled to go to a critical vote in two weeks' time.  On November 28th it must pass at second reading with a majority of votes in the House of Commons in order to continue moving along in the legislative process.  

If it does not pass at second reading, it dies, along with any prospect of actually fixing the world's first legislative regime attempting to implement the WTO Decision from August 30, 2003 on exporting generic medicines to eligible countries in need.

This is, therefore, a critical moment for international support, to demonstrate to Parliamentarians that there is still international attention being paid to this initiative.  We ask for your support in sending a message that they must live up to their lofty promises when they first enacted Canada's law and actually deliver on the promise of help with affordable generic medicines. 

Please see the text of the letter below.  Dozens of organizations have already signed on; the list is still in formation.  Please join us in adding your organization's voice to this demand that Canada's Parliament do the right thing.

As noted above, if your organization can sign on, please send us their endorsement by email to Gilleen at gwitkowski at aidslaw.ca.  The deadline for endorsements is the end of the day on Monday, November 19th.

Richard Elliott
Executive Director
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network


DRAFT statement for international sign-on by civil society organizations 
A global appeal to Canada's parliamentarians to fix law on affordable medicines for all

>From around the world, we are organizations actively engaged in responding to the global AIDS crisis.  We write to remind you that, while great progress has been made on preventing millions of new HIV infections and getting life-saving medicines to those in need, this epidemic is far from over.  We urge you to seize the opportunity before you to fix Canada's Access to Medicines Regime and make a significant contribution to overcoming this global tragedy. 

At this time, still fewer than half of those people in low- and middle-income countries who need AIDS drugs are able to get them.  The situation is even worse for children with HIV.  Millions more will die unless the international commitment to achieve "universal access" to AIDS treatment is maintained.  

For countries with limited resources, medicines must be affordable.  Many countries cannot afford expensive, patented brand-name medicines.  Harnessing the power of market competition through access to generics has been critical thus far in getting more affordable AIDS medicines to millions in the developing world.  But this progress must be sustained and expanded, and laws such as Canada's Access to Medicines Regime could help, if made workable.  

More than eight years ago, every single Canadian parliamentarian voted to create Canada's Access to Medicines Regime, a law aimed at enabling the supply of more affordable, generic medicines to treat HIV and other public health problems.  This law was a pledge by Canada to help respond to the health needs of the developing world.  Indeed, it was an important initiative which set a global precedent. 

But as you know, Canada's Access to Medicines Regime has not delivered what was promised. Bureaucratic red tape has kept it from being the simple, rapid, flexible tool that is needed.  We urge you to act now to fix it by adopting the reforms proposed by Canadian treatment advocates, including the "one-licence solution" that will streamline and simplify the law so that generic medicines can be supplied quickly and easily, at competitive prices, in response to the evolving needs of developing countries. 

This is a concrete contribution you can make, as Canadian parliamentarians and leaders, to supporting developing countries struggling to turn the tide on the global AIDS crisis and address other public health needs of their people.  Saving millions of lives is within our collective power.  We ask that you do your part and help Canada deliver on its promise of affordable medicines for all. 
[list in formation] 

Richard Elliott
Executive Director | Directeur général
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network | Réseau juridique canadien VIH/sida 
+1 416 595-1666 (ext./poste 229)
www.aidslaw.ca | www.twitter.com/aidslaw | www.aidslaw.ca/facebook

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