[Ip-health] News: publicvalues.ca- Big Pharma trying to sway Europe trade negotiations to fatten profits - NUPGE

Marine Avrillon Marine at haieurope.org
Thu Oct 28 07:04:53 PDT 2010

Big Pharma trying to sway Europe trade negotiations to fatten profits -


Move would drive up drug prices and costs for health care system and
individual consumers. 


OTTAWA, October 25, 2010, NUPGE: - Negotiations continued last week in
Ottawa for a Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade
Agreement (CETA). 


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is concerned
that big brand name pharmaceutical companies are attempting to use the
trade deal to expand their patent protection rights. This move would
drive up drug prices and costs for Canada's health care system and
individual consumers. 


"It's no surprise that all big corporations want the negotiations for
CETA to succeed because it will limit the right of governments to
control corporate actions," says Larry Brown, NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer.
"But there is self-interest and then there is excessive and crass self-


"Canada's patent laws already give Big Pharma some pretty amazing
protection," says Brown. "But this doesn't seem to be enough for them
and they're now trying to expand their patent rights under this
international trade deal. If they succeed, brand name drug prices will
skyrocket even higher and that will cost our public health care system
and Canadians billions of dollars more." 


In essence, Big Pharma wants to use the Canada-EU trade deal to gain
rights that they have been unable to get from Canada's Parliament. These
companies are actively encouraging the EU to demand provisions in the
proposed trade agreement that will expand their patent rights and
ultimately boost drug prices. 


NUPGE has learned that Big Pharma is also lobbying Canadian governments
to agree to these EU demands. 


"They've been caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar and
they need to get those hands slapped," says Brown. "We know the
companies have been lobbying provincial governments for support for
these self- enriching proposals. We also know that two provincial
governments have dutifully picked up the big drug companies' case." 


Ministers for both the Quebec and Alberta governments have written to
the federal government asking them to sign off on the drug companies'
demands at the trade deal table. Interestingly, the provincial ministers
are arguing for greater profits for big drug companies when they have to
know that this greater profit will come out of the costs to provincial
drug plans and the cost of drug purchases by their citizens. 


The letters, which are suspiciously similar, like they have been drafted
by the same group, don't actually say that they are asking for changes
that will cost the provincial treasury big bucks for more expensive
drugs. But that's exactly what the end result would be. 


Canada's drug patent laws are pretty clearly stacked in favour of Big
Pharma already. A quick look at the profits of the big pharmaceutical
companies will show how much they're raking in. 


The big drug companies get 20 years of patent protection before a
generic company can make a new drug at affordable prices, and they get
to extend that patent protection for another 2 years simply by claiming
(not proving, just claiming) that a generic manufacturer is infringing
on their patent. No other patent holder has that right. 


But that isn't enough for Big Pharma. They now want to get, in the
Canada-EU trade deal, four provisions they haven't been able to get from
directly pressuring Canadian governments. 


First, they want the right to appeal if their claim to patent
infringement is turned down. Effectively this would add at least another
couple of years to their competition-free ride. 


Second, they want the federal government to accept a proposal in the
trade deal that would extend the patent protection by however long it
takes to get the new drug approved for the market. That's what the EU is
trying to deliver for their big drug companies, another right that the
drug companies couldn't get from the Canadian government directly. 


Third, the drug companies currently get to keep their recipe hidden away
for 8 years even if a new drug doesn't warrant a patent. In the US that
right only lasts for 5 years. It's called data protection, but it really
is about guaranteeing the right of these companies to make a profit even
for a new drug recipe that doesn't have any new ingredients that would
get them patent protection. The EU, with the enthusiastic encouragement
of the drug companies, wants Canada to extend this 'data protection',
the right to keep their recipe secret, to a full 10 years, twice as long
as the US provision. 


Fourth, they want Canadian customs officers to be able to seize drug
shipments if there is even a suspicion, or an unproven complaint, by a
drug company, that the shipment somehow violates a patent right. And
this would apply even if the drug shipment was simply en route through
Canada to another country! 


All of this backroom maneuvering is based on the simple desire of the
big drug companies for even more profits and more protections for their
profit making. The inevitable end result would be delayed access to
cheaper generic drugs, a huge increase in the already skyrocketing cost
of drugs, and a fatter bottom line for the companies. 


"The proposals wouldn't stand a chance in Canada's parliament," says
Brown. "So the brand name drug giants want to use the proposed Canada-EU
trade deal to get what they couldn't get directly. They want the trade
deal to cancel the right of Canadians to have a say in how the drug
industry operates." 


"Our governments need to stand up for the right of Canadians - and for
their own right to make democratic decisions. They need to tell the drug
companies that they can't go to Europe to get through the back door what
would never be agreed to in an open debate in Canada," says Brown. 




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