An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (export permits)

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Wajid Khan  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Nov. 15, 2004
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Food and Drugs Act
Private Members' Business

May 5th, 2005 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Wajid Khan Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been consultations among all parties, and if you seek it I believe you will find unanimous consent that the order for the second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Health of Bill C-282, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (export permits), standing in my name on the order of precedence on the order paper, be discharged and the bill be withdrawn.

Quarantine Act
Government Orders

May 5th, 2005 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP will be supporting Bill C-12, but I need to emphasize the fact that there are some issues which continue to need to be addressed. Whether they are addressed through the mechanism of this bill or through other mechanisms, I think it is important that we are on record.

A great deal of information has been left up to the minister to develop through regulations. As recent experience has shown with the Chrétien bill for Africa, which was Bill C-9 in the last Parliament, developing regulations can be an incredibly slow and tedious process. We cannot wait indefinitely for these kinds of regulations to be developed.

There is one area of concern in the report that came back to the House. It specifically indicates that the proposed regulations or any version of the amended regulations should come to both the House and the Senate. We are concerned that it will delay the process if regulations must be approved by both the House and the Senate. We would urge expediency in looking at this, because we are often dealing with issues that are in the nature of a crisis when we are talking about quarantine.

I have addressed this issue before, but I feel compelled to raise it again: the use of screening officers is a major concern. It appears that we will be forcing customs officers to take on another role, that of medical professional. This is on top of their already substantial duties, which include enforcing the Customs Act, looking for potential terrorists and stopping materials that could harm our flora and fauna. This is far too much to expect one group to enforce. We must take that into consideration when we are asking our customs officers to take on these duties.

Other organizations, including the Canadian Nurses Association, have pointed out some concerns. They have pointed out that emerging diseases often have unique symptoms. Screening officers will have to be continually trained and supported to ensure that they know what they have to watch out for. A bad cough is not only the sign of a potential epidemic; it can be the sign of some other things. They must be able to determine what the differences are.

Bill C-12 does not explain how this system will be supported over time. We must address this in order to protect the health and welfare of Canadians.

One of the lessons learned from the SARS epidemic was about the lack of coordination and official communication responsibilities during the crisis. Again, the Canadian Nurses Association recommends that the Chief Public Health Officer and the Public Health Agency of Canada have a critical role in any epidemic or suspected epidemic. They were not included in this bill because enabling legislation to create that position and organization is still being written. This is a serious oversight. We urge the government to act quickly on that legislation. Everyone who spoke to the committee emphasized how important it is to have one clear authority during a health emergency.

It is our hope, however, that we never need this bill, but if we do, we must make sure that the sweeping powers given to the minister to detain people, to use privately owned facilities and to force people to accept medical assessment or treatment, are not unchecked. There are not enough assurances in this legislation that the minister will act in a reasonable manner and that people's rights to privacy will be respected or that workers affected by the quarantine will actually be protected. My colleague from the Bloc spoke quite a bit about this.

Some of these areas of concern are going to be dealt with by regulation. We have already indicated how important it is that the government act quickly in this area.

There is one other area for which we know this government will soon bring forward legislation, especially around protecting workers, and that is a quick response during a health emergency to such issues as employment insurance claims, medical leave and health and safety standards for front line workers. It is absolutely critical, if we are asking front line workers to put their lives on the line for things like this, that we ensure there is a social safety net to protect them.

Another omission that was identified during the committee stage was that the bill covers travellers and materials in and out of Canada but has no provisions for interprovincial travel. Considering that it takes longer to fly to Vancouver from Halifax than it does to fly from Europe to Halifax, the possibilities for communicable diseases being transmitted from one end of the country to the other are quite available.

I also want to briefly mention the Canadian Medical Association “SARS in Canada” report. A couple of key issues the association brought forward are not specifically dealt with adequately in this bill. They include communications.

As we saw during the SARS crisis, and I will quote from the report:

Without a coordinated system to notify acute care facilities and health care providers of global health alerts, front line clinicians often have no prior warning of new emerging diseases.

One of the things that became apparent during the SARS crisis was the lack of a list of current fax numbers or phone numbers of family doctors. There was an inability to communicate with physicians in real time. We must ensure that a communication system is developed to allow us to deal with emerging crises. Many crises emerge very quickly and an early response time is absolutely essential.

One of the other issues that was raised by the Canadian Medical Association was the fact that there was no system. Again I will quote from the report:

There was a lack of a system to distribute protective gear to health care professionals in the province. Once this became apparent the OMA [Ontario Medical Association] identified suppliers and manufacturers and offered to undertake distribution of masks to physicians in order to protect them and their patients.

It is absolutely essential when a crisis emerges that we have lists of suppliers and that we have communication systems in place so that we can adequately protect not only our front line workers, but also the Canadian population as a whole.

Although we will be supporting Bill C-12, I would urge that we quickly address some of these glaring omissions and gaps in the legislation.

(Bill C-282. On the Order: Private Members' Bills)

Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Health of Bill C-282, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (export permits)

Food and Drugs Act
Private Members' Business

December 1st, 2004 / 7 p.m.
See context

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, the issue of cross-border sales of Canadian drugs to American consumers is complex. Canada cannot be the drugstore of the United States. Neither American consumers nor Canadian suppliers should have any illusions otherwise.

I would like to thank the member for Mississauga—Streetsville for bringing this subject to the fore. It is a very important question. We can look at many ways to regulate it and at many ways to solve it. He is suggesting one which we discussed today. The important thing is that we understand the nature of the problem, the nature of the risk and that we deal with it effectively.

From the perspective of the Government of Canada, there are two key priorities in this matter: ensuring that drugs sold in Canada are safe and affordable; and, ensuring that we have a sufficient supply of prescription drugs to meet the needs of Canadians. The government is committed to working with its partners, including provincial and territorial health departments and regulatory authorities, health care professionals, industry and other stakeholders, to ensure this outcome for Canadians.

Before outlining some of my concerns with the bill, I will outline some principles that should frame our consideration of the bill.

First, it must address our fundamental priorities of safety and security of supply for Canadians.

Second, in this respect, the bill respects the roles and responsibilities of the provincial and territorial governments, which license and regulate doctors and pharmacists practising medicine and pharmacy through provincial colleges or registrars of physicians and pharmacists.

Third, it has to be implementable and enforceable. It also has to be consistent with Canada's trade obligations and be able to withstand any court challenge.

Fourth, it must respect the fundamental basis of the Food and Drugs Act and equivalent statutes in the United States and other countries, and that each country is responsible for the safety of prescription drugs and other therapeutic products made available to its citizens.

The Food and Drugs Act and its regulations ensure that drugs and other therapeutic products sold to Canadians are supported by sufficient evidence demonstrating their safety, efficacy and quality. For prescription drugs, the food and drug regulations require that they only be sold to a patient pursuant to a prescription that has been issued by a practitioner licensed to practise in a province or territory of Canada.

Fifth, existing tools at federal, provincial and territorial levels of government should be fully used before considering legislative options. In this regard, the Minister of Health wrote his provincial and territorial colleagues to reiterate the need for regulatory authorities for the practice of pharmacy and medicine and to remain vigilant in enforcing their standards of professional conduct.

Earlier this year, Health Canada inspected 11 Canadian pharmacies involved in Internet pharmacy operations, distance dispensing and cross-border drug trade, to ensure compliance with the Food and Drugs Act and related regulations, and it will conduct more compliance inspections early in 2005.

Finally, all the steps taken by the Government of Canada in the current assessment of the situation have to be taken into account.

So far, where supply is concerned, there does not appear to be any shortage on the Canadian side. Health Canada, in cooperation with other federal departments and the provincial and territorial governments, is looking at all the various options for addressing the issue, should the situation change.

I would like to speak to some of my concerns regarding Bill C-282 relative to these principles. Before I begin, however, it is important to highlight that the bill does not have the support of the Minister of Health, the Minister of State for Public Health nor the Minister of International Trade.

I should also point out that the Minister of Health is on record with respect to assessing options regarding how best to address concerns relating to the activities of Internet pharmacies. In this context I wish to point out that the Government of Canada is in the process of developing a list of potential regulatory options. This process will be completed in the very near future.

My specific concerns with the bill are the following. It proposes to enact an export permit scheme for prescription drugs to ensure the security of Canadian supplies, with which we agree. Under the proposed clause 38 of the Food and Drugs Act, the minister would be authorized to issue an export permit if: first, the drug meets the laws of the country of import; second, the export would not adversely affect drug supply in Canada; third, the export would not contravene the act or regulations; and fourth, the sale of export meets all provincial requirements for the practise of pharmacy and medicine.

The bill puts on Canada the burden of enforcing the laws of the U.S. and other countries respecting the importation of prescription drugs.

Implementing the export permit scheme outlined in the bill will be a major challenge. It would be both very expensive and difficult to administer and to use, and would require substantial human and financial resources.

This bill also has an impact on provincial and territorial jurisdictions by ensuring that export sales meet all provincial requirements regarding the practices of pharmacists and physicians.

Finally, it could be subjected to legal challenges and raise concerns pertaining to our trade obligations. The bill, as tabled, does not meet the outlined principles and therefore, the government cannot support the bill.

I want to reiterate that I think we all agree with the principles put forward and the importance of the questions discussed by the member for Mississauga--Streetsville. Regardless how the House decides on this legislation, we must never forget the importance of the matter. We must look at any solutions to any potential problems that might arise in this respect.

Food and Drugs Act
Private Members' Business

December 1st, 2004 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to comment on Bill C-282.

As I mentioned earlier in the House, I congratulate the hon. member for having raised the question of drug prices, even though I believe the bill he proposes does not address the real problems.

As I said, the real issue is Bill C-91, which was adopted by the Mulroney government some time ago, and which extended drug patent protection. This extension, unfortunately, has added immeasurably to the drug prices paid by ordinary Canadians and our governments.

It is unfortunate because we must now act to control this increase in prices. In fact, the most significant aspect of the health care system at present is the increase in the cost of drugs, which puts even more pressure on our health care system.

Companies do need to make profits, as was mentioned earlier. When we talk about Bill C-91 and attacking the real causes of why our pharmaceutical products cost Canadians more and more, it has to do with reasonable profit making.

We know that pharmaceutical companies regularly rank number one in Canada in profits as a percentage of the revenues, as a percentage of their assets and as a percentage of their equity. As they are ranked number one in the country, the profits made in the pharmaceutical industry are actually higher than in any other industry in the country.

There have been claims that the cost of research and development are enormous. In fact, according to one American industry study, it costs up to $1.3 billion to develop an average new medicine.

A 2001 study by the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board states that of the 82 new patented drugs for human use developed at that time, total expenditures for all those 82 products were $1.06 billion. That averages out to about $13 million per new drug. We are talking about a factor of 1% compared to what is normally trotted out as a figure for actual research and development costs.

The question of drug prices is an important one. When we are talking about Canadians having to pay more for pharmaceutical products than they should, while at the same time we hear about record profits for the pharmaceutical industry, there obviously is a problem.

My colleague from Windsor West has actually proposed with his bill, Bill C-274, a way of resolving some of these problems. I will quote briefly a release put out by the member for Windsor West concerning Bill C-274. He mentions that brand name drug companies now list several patents on the same drug so that they can start the automatic injunction against competition again and again. This is ever greening. This keeps lower cost generic drugs that are not infringing patents off the market and forces Canadians to pay monopoly prices for their medicines longer than they should.

Canada's prescription drug costs are increasing by 15% each year, which is faster than any part of our health care system. Bill C-274 would help control prescription drug costs by making lower cost generic drugs available more quickly.

It is important to mention that from 1993 to 2003 the price of brand name drugs increased by 75% while generic drugs increased by 42% over that same period.

The Romanow commission and the Competition Bureau have called for a review of the drug patent legislation. The Supreme Court has described the regulations as a draconian regime. Obviously it is time to provide Canadians with clear rules to ensure access to prescription medicines is fair for everyone.

This brings me back to the issue of Bill C-282. Very clearly we have a problem. Canadians are paying far too much for pharmaceutical products, which is as a result of Conservative policies that were first opposed and then continued by the Liberal government.

Does Bill C-282 in any way address those serious problems? I believe that it does not. In a sense it would allow multinational drug companies, which are mostly American based, to then dictate, in a way, what conditions should be attached to our drug exports to the U.S. retail market.

It is clear that pharmaceutical companies would love to level the price playing field between Canada and the U.S., not by lowering prices to the Canadian level but by jacking them up to the U.S. level. I think this would be a mistake.

The American drug insurance system does not cover 60 million American citizens. If we look at the course of any one year, 40 million Americans at any particular point in the year are uninsured. As the hon. member for Hochelaga mentioned earlier, 2 million of those 40 million to 60 million Americans in any one year are trying to escape the fact that they do not have access to medical insurance by purchasing through Canada.

When we talk about health care costs, 14% or more of GDP in the United States is devoted to health care, even though those 40 million to 60 million Americans are not covered by medical insurance.

The United States has outrageously high drug prices because its drug pharmaceutical companies resort to massive and very costly advertising for their products and the cost of advertising is built into the price of their products. This, as we know, is banned in Canada.

We now have a situation where American pharmaceutical companies would like us to cut off access to Americans who are uninsured and Americans who are paying too much for their pharmaceutical products.

I believe we should be seeking some sort of legislation that would provide relief and would address the issue of an importing country, such as the United States, using its laws to evoke either public policy safety or health safety technical standards with the primary goal of frustrating or eliminating Canadian exports. We certainly have seen that with softwood lumber and with BSE where laws were put into place as basically fences for Canadian exports.

We need to ensure that our exports from legitimate industries in Canada are protected but at the same time we need to ensure that Americans, who are desperate because of the lack of full medical coverage, have access to our medical products when it does not affect the Canadian national interest.

We know that a number of speakers in the United States have cast doubt on our pharmaceutical products by questioning our safety standards, but we all know that is ridiculous. Canadian safety standards are some of the strongest in the world.

We do need to deal with this issue but we need to deal with it in the Canadian context. I will come back to my initial comments that the real issue is the question of pharmaceutical costs and how much Canadians are paying now because of extended patent protection. We should be looking at a regime that provides for recouping research and development costs but which does not cost an arm and a leg for the Canadian taxpayer just to fuel industry profits in the pharmaceutical sector that are without parallel elsewhere in the country.

Food and Drugs Act
Private Members' Business

December 1st, 2004 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Charleswood—St. James, MB

Madam Speaker, much attention has been paid to Internet pharmacies recently, yet Canadians are unclear as to where their federal government stands on this issue. The Prime Minister and the health minister seem to contradict each other. They flip-flop. They send mixed signals. I find it interesting that a Liberal member is bringing this bill to the floor, which at least contradicts a few of the flip-flops the government has made.

Let us take a step back. This is a complex issue. On one side there is the need to protect the supply of pharmaceuticals and the cost of these pharmaceuticals to Canadians. On the other side, we must heed the economic benefit of a new industry and the more than 4,000 jobs it carries with it. As the member stated, it is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, $500 million at least.

We must be unequivocal. The priority of the Conservative Party of Canada is to ensure that Canadians have a safe and secure supply of pharmaceuticals, and most important, access to prescription drugs which we use on a daily basis so that we all can lead active and productive lives.

We cannot discount the effect Internet pharmacies have had on the lives of thousands of other Canadians. For an Internet pharmacy employee in Manitoba, it means a steady income to provide a home, groceries and the necessities of life for his or her family. I come from Manitoba where a lot of these Internet pharmacies are found. I have seen the growth and development these pharmacies have allowed in towns like Minnedosa and Niverville.

Having said that, it is also important to note that Internet pharmacies are breaking no Canadian laws. There is no legislation currently in place in Canada to stop cross-border prescription drug trade.

Bill C-282 is an attempt to regulate the Internet pharmacy industry. In fact it could be argued it is an attempt to shut down the Internet pharmacy industry. While we recognize that there is a place for industry regulations no matter what the industry is, the bill falls far short of fair and ethical standards for Internet pharmacies. Let me give the House a few examples.

The bill presents the idea of export permits on pharmaceuticals. Export permits would be a good start in laying the groundwork for cross-border pharmaceutical trade but it also contains a provision that trade can only take place if there is no threat to the Canadian supply. Again, it is a good measure to ensure Canadians are protected from drug shortages and ensure the industry is operating in an ethical manner.

There are measures proposed in the bill that are of great issue to Canadians and the industry alike.

One concern is the power that is granted to the minister in approving export permits for cross-border pharmaceutical trade. Under this legislation, the minister would have the power to approve or reject each application for the export permit. What that essentially means is if the minister wanted the industry to shut down, he or she could unilaterally take that step. This is unfair for the business owners and the employees of the Internet pharmacies.

Another concern is the application of the laws from another country. The bill states that it would be illegal to export pharmaceuticals to countries where it is against the law for that country, yet there is no schedule of countries where this practice is illegal. In fact we are all aware of the controversies that are happening in countries like the United States, where this is generally focused, where the country itself cannot decide if they are legal or illegal. How are we as Canadians supposed to make that interpretation?

I recognize that there must be some regulatory regime in place for this new industry, considering the product it deals with and the importance the products have in the lives of Canadians. However, there is much room for improvement in this legislation. There are immediate and practical concerns that all parties should have with the bill.

There is some fear that this legislation could precipitate the United States and other countries to fully permit the importation of pharmaceuticals. That could lead to bulk importation which could truly threaten the Canadian supply. That would be very serious.

Other concerns should be noted, such as the infringement on provincial jurisdiction, as provinces have the regulatory guidelines for medical doctors and prescription drugs and this bill may cross that line, especially when dealing with punitive measures against physicians, pharmacists and the industry. I would like to remind the member that these professions are self-regulating and within the jurisdiction of each province. It would be unfortunate to interfere in that boundary.

Let us put the bill aside for a minute. I want to talk a little about where the government has been on this. There has been a lot of talk, as I said previously, on Internet pharmacies, which I would like to reiterate for the record.

On October 31, the Minister of Health told CBC Television, “I see no evidence of shortages across the country; at least no evidence has been produced to me”. A few days later, the Prime Minister said that his government would not be taking any action to shut down the Internet pharmacy industry. If that is the case and the health minister has seen no evidence of shortages, this bill is contrary to what the government has said publicly.

I would ask the member if he has empirical evidence that Internet pharmacies are affecting supply. I would be very interested in that evidence, evidence that can be supported. Anecdotal evidence does not do the trick. If he can provide that evidence, I would be very interested in it.

This bill has the potential, as I mentioned earlier, to shut down Internet pharmacies without exploring options with the stakeholders and industry representatives on all sides. While I agree that this industry does need some form of regulation, the bill has some room for improvement, to be fair and equitable for all players in the pharmaceutical game.

I note that the health committee will be looking at this issue. I would also note that the U.S. needs to get its act together on this issue. On the one hand, the U.S. says that Canada is the cause of the problem, but on the other hand, that it is the solution to the problem. With the new term of the current president, I would hope that he, along with his colleagues in Congress, will look at this issue for the sake of Americans and allow Canadians to focus on Canadians.

Having said that, let me note that the member who brought forward this bill has said he is open to discussions about it. I will reciprocate and say that I am open to entering into discussions.

With that, I will conclude my comments. This is a very important issue and we have to bring all the stakeholders together to ensure that Canadians come first.

Food and Drugs Act
Private Members' Business

December 1st, 2004 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Wajid Khan Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

moved that Bill C-282, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (export permits), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker,I take this opportunity to acquaint my hon. colleagues further on Bill C-282, a bill designed to safeguard Canadians and their prescription drug supplies by extending the export permit requirement in place in the Food and Drugs Act.

Let me set the stage. In 2003 the sales of prescription medicines to U.S. residents, through the medium of Canadian Internet pharmacies, reached a figure of $566 million to $605 million, more than doubling the 2002 estimates of $251 million. Early indicators for 2004 are predicting further growth and volume sales, some estimates putting the figure up to a billion dollars.

Some Canadian pharmacies have been quick to exploit this market. We have seen a growth from only four Canadian pharmacies with an active Internet export business in 1999 to 120 in 2003.

There are two essential reasons for this exponential growth in the cross-border Internet pharmacy trade. First, prices for some drugs in Canada are lower than those paid by consumers in the U.S., on average 36% below U.S. prices. Second, the Internet has made it cheaper to find low priced drugs in Canada and ship them to the U.S.

What troubles me, and many Canadians, is that continued untrammelled growth in this industry will have negative, long term repercussions for all Canadians, while a few profit from the trade. It is Canadian consumers who will be the losers in the long run. Prescription drugs in Canada are priced for the Canadian market and reflect the regime of the Patent Medicine Prices Review Board, PMPRB, and the lower purchasing power of the Canadian dollar in relative terms.

The supply system is geared toward a system of health insurance that is looking for value for money and a smaller and less well off population base. The prescription drugs sold by Internet pharmacies to U.S. consumers are purchased from the Canadian drug supply and then sold on at a profit. If the growth in this business is allowed to continue unchecked, I and others fear that the Canadian drug supply system will be at risk and Canadian consumers will end up paying more. An increase in volume of prescription drug exports and caps being placed on the quantity of drugs shipped to Canada by the pharmaceutical companies will equal drug shortages and price hikes.

There are growing calls emanating from U.S. legislators and drug manufacturers for prices to increase in Canada. Prescription drugs already account for one of the highest health care costs for provinces. We could expect that even modest price increases would strain resources of governments, health plans and individuals. For the chronically ill and seniors, among others, this would mean more than a mere irritant. Any price increases in drugs would mean that ordinary Canadians would suffer.

Our system of prescription drug supply is designed to meet the needs of Canadian consumers, not U.S. consumers. The U.S. pharmaceutical market size is approximately 13 times larger than that of Canada. In 2002 prescriptions dispensed per day in the United States amounted to 8,590,260 compared with 326,219,000 per year in Canada. If we divide the total number of prescriptions dispensed per year in Canada by the U.S. daily figures, we see that if U.S. residents were to purchase all their prescription drugs in Canada, the annual supply of Canadian drugs would be exhausted in 38 days.

I am not suggesting that it would be the likelihood, but as U.S. demand grows, there is an obvious potential that the Canadian drug supply system would be unable to supply both the domestic and the American markets.

There is already a voracious demand from U.S. seniors 65 or older who number over 30 million. That demand and that from other sources has every potential to grow. Numerous states, including Wisconsin and Illinois, and counties and cities in the U.S., are already actively encouraging their citizens to purchase their prescription drugs online from Canada.

Two bills are before the senate in the United States designed to facilitate the import of drugs. It is very probable that U.S. federal laws could be changed to allow retail drug imports from Canada. There are existing problems associated with the Internet pharmacy business as it stands now. Retail drug imports into the United States are not technically permitted by the Food and Drug Administration. In essence, Canadian Internet drug companies are flouting U.S. law.

A commonly used device for Internet pharmacies is to hire a Canadian physician to countersign or fully prescribe a prescription with a U.S. physician in order for the Internet pharmacist to fill the prescription. Not only is the Canadian doctor in this case often breaching the professional obligations set down by provincial Colleges of Physicians by not personally examining the patient, but the Internet pharmacist is breaching a responsibility in standards of practice for patient care and dispensing.

Finally, the results of the Canadian Pharmacists Association, which was released in the past few weeks, suggest that Canadian pharmacists are already experiencing shortages when filling patient prescriptions. Most felt that these shortages had become more evident over the past year. Although the pharmacists are at the moment finding alternative sources to ensure that patients do not go away empty-handed, there is a limit to how long this can go on before patients cannot have their prescriptions filled. Internet pharmacies are already facing increased challenges in obtaining enough stock to meet the demand of their customers, and are actively lobbying other pharmacies to over order and ship the excess to them.

The bill aims at going some way to addressing some of these problems, both potential and already apparent. I am concerned that we as parliamentarians need to be pre-emptive in this matter and not merely reactive to whatever legislation may come from the U.S. What is at stake is the well-being of our country's most important resource, our citizens.

The bill is designed to develop a Canada-first policy and is based on three principles: first, ensuring that medicines are available to Canadians when they need them; second, protecting the ethics of our health care system; and third, ensuring that we are not infringing laws in another country.

The proposed bill will extend the existing export certificate requirements under section 37 of the Food and Drugs Act to require those wanting to export drugs, as set out as schedule F to those regulations, to obtain an export permit, unless specifically exempted. Those wishing to export prescription drugs will need to justify certain criteria. The export of drugs cannot endanger the supply in Canada. The prescription to be filled and exported must be signed by a Canadian physician and pharmacist in accordance with the rules set down by the appropriate regulatory body in the province in which the prescription is filled. Export of drugs cannot contravene laws of the country to which it is being exported. There will be exemptions, most notably for Canadians temporarily residing abroad, such as snowbirds, and any export made with respect to the Jean Chrétien pledge to Africa.

We have to look at harsh realities and do what is best for Canadians. If the U.S. market becomes open to parallel imports from Canada, or if the Internet pharmacy trade is not curtailed, there is a very real probability that our citizens will be the ones who suffer.

The provinces and this government have committed themselves to the preservation of the health care system that ensures a fair, affordable and accessible service where and when Canadians need it. We cannot put profit or the welfare of another country's citizens ahead of the necessity to protect and care for Canadians.

I hope that among other initiatives this bill will serve as a stimulus to find a solution to a problem that threatens all Canadians.

I would hope that every member of this House would recognize our collective responsibility to protect all Canadians. More particularly, we have a responsibility to those that are most vulnerable: the seniors, the chronically ill, low income families and single parent families, who would be adversely affected if this issue is not resolved.

If we cannot find a solution, we will have failed in our responsibility. To that end, I would welcome any other suggestions or solutions proposed by any member of this House.

We need to ensure that our supplies of prescription drugs are always there when we need them, that a few are not endangering the supply of the many. We need to ensure that we are not a convenience for a country whose health care system is a product of neglect and exclusiveness, that our prescription drug system is for all Canadians.

Food and Drugs Act
Routine Proceedings

November 15th, 2004 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Wajid Khan Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-282, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (export permits).

Mr. Speaker, people are worried that pharmaceuticals intended for the Canadian market and Canadian consumers are heading back across the border to the U.S.A.

Our primary concern must be Canada's drug supply. Consequently, the bill calls for an amendment to the Food and Drugs Act so that a permit would be required for the export or sale of exported drugs set out in schedule F of the act.

The purpose of the bill is to ensure that the Canadian supply of pharmaceuticals is secure.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)