[Ip-health] "Tony Clement behind Senate delay, leaked documetn shows" (Xtra!, 24 March 2011)

Richard Elliott relliott at aidslaw.ca
Sat Mar 26 08:39:06 PDT 2011


Tony Clement behind Senate delay, leaked document shows
NEWS / Conservative senators stall AIDS drug bill at cabinet minister's urging

Dale Smith / National / Thursday, March 24, 2011 

Conservative senators were issued a memo from Industry Minister Tony Clement urging them to vote against Bill C-393, which would make it easier for Canadian companies to ship cheap generic AIDS drugs to the developing world. 
"Senator Larry Smith had the opportunity to meet with pharmaceutical industry leaders in the Montreal area, all are against bill C-393 as it is extremely damaging to our ability to motivate companies to patent new drugs in Canada," the memo from Smith's assistant, Nichole Beck, reads. "Many jobs in Canada's research and development sector stand to be lost as a result of this bill."
The memo then listed reasons that C-393 should be defeated, according to Clement. Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth, who supports C-393, has confirmed that the memo was sent to all Conservative senators and added that many of the pharmaceutical companies are in the riding that Smith plans to run in during the next election.
Conservative Senator Stephen Greene, who has been the de facto government critic on the bill, quoted many of those points verbatim in debate on Wednesday.
 "Senator Greene's remarks have repeated a number of falsehoods that we've heard over and over again, and that he and other senators must know by now are simply inaccurate," says Richard Elliott, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.
Debate was then adjourned after the Conservatives announced that Smith wanted to speak to it but was absent from the chamber. Liberal senators forced a vote to keep the debate going, but that vote was defeated 44-36.
"[Smith] was, conveniently, in the chamber not too long before but was then all of a sudden absent," says Elliott, who was observing the Senate proceedings all afternoon.
Word had been given Wednesday afternoon that the bill would be allowed to pass second reading, only to be sent to the Social Affairs committee, despite the fact that its predecessor, S-232, had been studied in depth by the Banking, Trade and Commerce committee.
At a press conference Wednesday morning, Nancy Ruth fingered the Conservative leadership in the Senate as the source of the delays - Government Leader in the Senate Marjory LeBreton, deputy leader Gerald Comeau and whip Consiglio Di Nino.
Because the Senate plans to sit this Friday to pass as many bills as possible before the writ drops for an election, it is still possible that C-393 will pass if political will on the government side can be motivated.
Should it pass second reading Thursday afternoon, the committee could deliberate on C-393's merits either that evening or Friday morning, in time to return it to the main chamber for a third-reading vote before the Senate rises.
"It is also entirely open to the Senate this afternoon to say fine, we can dispense with the committee stage and just move right to third reading, so they don't even need to send it to committee," Elliott says.
"It's all about whether the Conservatives are willing to let this go through or not - that is really the only question at this point. If they say yes, it will happen right away - as long as they keep saying no, the chances of it become ever slimmer with each passing hour."

By linking Senator Smith with Montreal pharma companies, the memo may reveal some of the motivation behind Smith's opposition to C-393. Smith has previously announced his intention to resign his Senate seat to run in the next election in the Montreal-area riding of Lac Saint Louis.

The complete text of Tony Clement's memo
Xtra Staff / National / Thursday, March 24, 2011 

The memo:

Dear Conservative Senate Staff & Senators,

Senator Larry Smith had the opportunity to meet with pharmaceutical industry leaders in the Montreal area, all are against bill C-393 as it is extremely damaging to our ability to motivate companies to patent new drugs in Canada. Many jobs in Canada's research and development sector, stand to be lost as a result of this bill. I have attached the documents prepared by Mr. Tony Clement.


Nichole A. Beck


Vote Rationale C-393 CAMR

Under the current CAMR system, the process includes the following important steps:

* The product must be identified as safe and effective for human consumption

* The target country/population must be clearly defined and the request must come from the target government itself

* A tracking system must be in place to monitor the drugs flow from Canada to the target country/population to ensure consumption by intended group

* That under CAMR, only THAT drug identified for export can be sent to the intended country/population

Stephen Lewis and his friends have said that these checks are the 'problem' and need to be removed. In fact, these steps are vital. If they are removed, the following consequences can result:

* Instead of one shipment of a particular drug, an advocate can be granted permission to break patents of multiple drugs and ship them to multiple locations, potentially for commercial purposes.

* Drugs that are not certified by Health Canada as being safe and effective could be shipped to unsuspecting populations, to their detriment.

* Drugs shipped under CAMR could be redirected to the black market with proceeds going to non-humanitarian causes such as weapons.

* If drugs are shipped without the consent of the home government, the drugs could run against their domestic laws and traditions.

* If C-393 is passed, Canada's CAMR will be out of step with our international trade obligations. And if current patents are threatened, the patent holders will leave Canada seeking shelter in countries which value patent protection. The loss to Canadian R & D will be significant.

Most importantly, Canadian Generics are some of the most expensive in the world. With C-393 or not, NGOs in the developing world will direct their precious resources to cheaper drugs coming from places like India and Asia. Testimony was clear - This is an irrelevant measure to address the problem of a lack of drugs in Africa.
Committee was clear that the solution to this problem is multifaceted and to that end, the 

Government of Canada has:

1. Launched the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative

2. Made several contributions to organizations such as Health Partners International Canada (Jake Epp's group) who in turn have sent millions of doses of free drugs from Canadian pharmaceutical companies to the developing world

3. Supported the Global Fund, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and the Clinton Foundation, to name a few. Please contact Minister Oda's office for more details.

In all, close to $2.1 billion in International Aid flows to the developing world each year from Canada.

The bottom line is that C-393 lessens Canadian Patent Protection and vital health, safety, and verification of non-commercial purpose checks. Worst of all, it won't solve the problem. As such, Government members should oppose C-393.

Tony Clement

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