[Ip-health] Bill C-398 to fix Canada's law on compulsory licensing for export - 2 media items
relliott at aidslaw.ca
Fri Feb 24 13:08:48 PST 2012
(For more on Bill C-398, the newly-introduced bill to streamline Canada's law implementing the August 30th, 2003 Decision of the WTO General Council on compulsory licensing of medicines for export, see www.medicinesforall.ca.)
February 22, 2012 - http://embassymag.ca/page/printpage/elliott-02-22-2012
Another chance on access to medicines
By Richard Elliott
Every day, people in the so-called global South are suffering and dying from treatable illness because of high medicine prices and limited resources. When we can supply medicines for well under a dollar a day, people are dying because they are too poor to buy their lives. That should be unacceptable to people of conscience, including all MPs and senators in Parliament.
Fortunately, with the introduction of Bill C-398 in the House of Commons last week (and an identical bill anticipated soon in the Senate), parliamentarians now have before them another chance to make a difference by fixing Canada's Access to Medicines Regime. Created in 2004 with unanimous support in Parliament, the regime's purpose is to help developing countries get lower-cost, generic versions of high-priced, patented medicines to deal with public health problems.
Generic competition is the main driver of dramatic reductions in pharmaceutical product prices. Indeed, it is only because of access to generic medications that life-saving treatment is now reaching some six million people with HIV in the developing world, according to the latest UN figures. (This is still only roughly 40 per cent of those who need treatment now, and access to HIV medicines for children still lags behind.)
A decade ago, treatment for one person cost upward of $10,000 US per year. Now, using generic medicines, lives can be saved-with people continuing to work, study, and support their families and communities-for $100 to $150 US per patient per year, or even less depending on the treatment regimen being used.
Achieving this enormous 99 per cent reduction in prices is only possible when stringent patent monopolies are not allowed to block competition and keep medicines priced out of reach. Such generic competition is exactly what the access to medicines regime is supposed to enable.
Sadly, the regime has failed to deliver. In nearly eight years, only one licence has been issued to permit the export of one order of one generic AIDS drug to one country: Rwanda.
As the experience to date has shown, unnecessary restrictions and cumbersome requirements render the regime user-unfriendly for both developing countries and for generic drug manufacturers. With it unlikely to be used again unless reformed, it is patients who pay the ultimate price for the regime's bureaucratic red tape.
Obviously, fixing it is not a panacea. Overcoming the global gap in access to medicines requires multiple, complementary strategies. But ensuring more affordable medicines for low- and middle-income countries is a necessary part of the solution.
Countries can't and shouldn't be dependent on corporate charity of medicine donations to treat millions of people. They need to harness the power of competition in the marketplace to make medicines affordable. This is why it's important to make the access to medicines regime work-even as it should be complemented by other efforts, such as increasing Canada's contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which funds treatment and prevention of these diseases for millions around the world.
In the dying days of the last Parliament, a resounding majority of MPs voted to fix the access to medicines regime. The effort enjoyed widespread support from humanitarian organizations, health professionals, and religious and community leaders-as well as 80 percent of Canadians in a national poll. MPs from all parties supported the bill.
Regrettably, the bill was then fatally stalled in the Senate and time ran out a few days after it was introduced there. Bill C-393 died when Parliament was dissolved and the 2011 federal election was called.
Hope doesn't die
The demand to fix the regime continues, from across civil society and across Canada. The new bill, C-398, returns to Parliament the two key reforms that the large majority of MPs, drawn from all parties, passed last year-and which they ought to support again now.
First, Bill C-398 would scrap the current cumbersome system of requiring a separate licence to supply each individual country with a fixed maximum quantity of a drug for a maximum of two years, a system that works for neither developing countries needing to buy generic medicines nor generic manufacturers who are potential suppliers.
This would be replaced with the 'one licence solution,' a more flexible and economically viable approach that would require only a single licence on a given drug. It would give generic manufacturers more flexibility to supply any of the eligible countries already covered by the regime with medicines in accordance with their needs as those evolve over time.
Second, Bill C-398 would ensure that the regime can be used to supply not just a limited list of medicines for a few specific diseases, such as HIV, tuberculosis, or malaria, but can be used to address developing countries' needs for medicines for other public health problems as well.
Both of these reforms are fully consistent with World Trade Organization rules on patents, as confirmed by previous analyses and testimony before the last Parliament by some of the world's leading experts. Indeed, Bill C-398 would actually make the regime more consistent with WTO rules while taking advantage of the 'flexibility' in those rules that countries have already negotiated internationally.
With the reintroduction of these reforms in Parliament, MPs and senators have another opportunity to do the right thing. Fixing Canada's Access to Medicines Regime so it will work is a humanitarian imperative that enjoys widespread public support and, as demonstrated in the last Parliament, transcends partisan politics.
Making it work would set a positive global precedent for ongoing efforts to save millions of lives with more affordable medicines. It would be unconscionable for parliamentarians to squander such an opportunity again.
Richard Elliott is the executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, a leading member of the broad civil society coalition calling for reforms to fix Canada's Access to Medicines Regime.
Projet de loi C-398: Le NPD souhaite faciliter l'envoi de médicaments à l'étranger
MONTRÉAL - Il faut faciliter l'envoi de médicaments aux plus démunis de l'étranger, affirme Hélène Laverdière, porte-parole de l'Opposition officielle en matière d'affaires étrangères.
La députée de Laurier-Sainte-Marie a déposé, la semaine dernière, le projet de loi C-398 afin de faciliter l'acheminement de médicaments génériques vers les pays en développement.
Le projet de loi modifierait le Régime canadien d'accès aux médicaments (RCAM), un programme adopté à l'unanimité par le Parlement en 2004 qui permet l'exportation de médicaments à l'étranger.
Le RCAM est confronté à trop de dédales administratifs pour être employé adéquatement, selon la députée du NPD. « Nous avons un urgent besoin de réformer le RCAM, a expliqué Mme Laverdière mercredi par voie de communiqué.
C'est un outil que nous pouvons utiliser pour combattre la crise mondiale du SIDA et 80 % des Canadiens soutiennent cette initiative. »
Rappelant qu'un enfant meure toutes les trois secondes faute d'avoir eu accès à des médicaments, Mme Laverdière affirme compter sur l'appui des Québécois pour faire « du Canada un leader en matière de réponse aux crises mondiales de santé publique ».
Selon l'Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale, 9,4 millions de personnes infectées par le VIH à travers le monde auraient besoin d'une thérapie antirétrovirale, mais n'y auraient toujours pas accès.
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
Access to Medicines Campaign: www.medicinesforall.ca
Campagne pour accès aux médicaments : www.medicamentspourtous.ca
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