An Act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Hélène Laverdière  NDP

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

Status

Defeated, as of Nov. 28, 2012
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Patent Act to make it easier to manufacture and export pharmaceutical products to address public health problems afflicting many developing and least-developed countries, especially those resulting from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics.

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.

Votes

  • Nov. 28, 2012 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

HIV-AIDS
Statements By Members

November 28th, 2012 / 2:10 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the NDP, we thank the many organizations and individuals whose tireless efforts in Canada and abroad support those living with HIV-AIDS and work to prevent future infections.

The AIDS epidemic has become a global public health challenge that warrants our collective attention and demands our concerted action. Even with advances in medical science, the scarcity of life-saving drugs condemns many to a life of poverty and to dying a preventable death.

It is more important than ever that we support life-saving initiatives to fight AIDS-related deaths. For this reason, I urge my colleagues to vote in favour of Bill C-398 tonight, the medicines for all bill, which would save millions of lives worldwide.

On this solemn but hopeful occasion, we in the NDP recommit to ending the spread of HIV-AIDS at home and abroad and to supporting those who live with HIV-AIDS to ensure their dignity and rights are upheld.

Access to Medicines
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

November 28th, 2012 / 3:20 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from the Grandmothers Advocacy Network signed by hundreds of people in British Columbia who point out that millions of people die needlessly each year from treatable diseases, such as HIV-AIDS, TB and malaria, and that half the people who require treatment for these diseases in sub-Saharan Africa do not receive it.

The petitioners call on the House to support Bill C-398 that has the provisions necessary to make Canada's access to medicines regime workable at no cost to taxpayers. It is essentially the same bill passed previously by the House. They urge all parliamentarians, as I do, to support Bill C-398 when it comes before the House.

Access to Medicines
Statements By Members

November 21st, 2012 / 2:05 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, tonight we will have the second hour of debate on Bill C-398 before it is referred to a committee.

This bill would help save lives by fighting such illnesses as HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in developing countries. It is actively supported by tens of thousands of Canadians.

However, there is misinformation about this bill circulating on the other side of the House.

Bill C-398 would not weaken existing safeguards ensuring medicines are not diverted. The bill would not remove measures to ensure the quality of medicines sent abroad. The bill would not violate Canada's obligation under the WTO.

This bill would save lives. It should not be voted upon on the basis of hearsay and misinformation. If any of my colleagues have questions about the bill, my door is always open to them.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

November 21st, 2012 / 6:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, like its predecessor, Bill C-398 would amend the Patent Act to facilitate the manufacture and export of generic pharmaceuticals to address public health problems afflicting many developing and least developed countries, countries that most urgently need our assistance.

We know that treatment of AIDS prevents transmission. Science says so. Treatment of this terrible disease with antiretroviral medicines can reduce the total virus load in the body in an HIV sufferer to negligible amounts, which means the next step is to get that man or woman the medicine.

Under the current framework, Canada's Access to Medicines Regime, the compulsory licensing process, which is based not only on the specific kind of drug but also specific quantities, is further complicated by making each of those requirements specific to the importing country. Throughout the entire life of the current legislation only one country benefited, Rwanda, leaving the manufacturing company, Apotex, so frustrated that it stated it would not use CAMR again until it was reformed.

Many of the recipients in greatest need cannot wait much longer. Most recent statistics, which date back to 2010, estimate that 34 million people are suffering from HIV-AIDS, 50% are women, 3.4 million are children and 22.5 million sufferers are in sub-Saharan Africa, among some of the world's poorest, least stable countries. Without effective access to medicines enabling treatment, the numbers keep growing. By the end of 2010, HIV-AIDS accounted for 1.8 million deaths that year, deaths that we have come far enough, scientifically and medicinally, to have avoided.

Years ago I witnessed the terrible impact of this disease, while it ravaged the population of Central America. While doing international aid work in Honduras, I was in San Pedro Sula, which had the highest incidence of AIDS across the continent at the time.

Groups in my riding are well aware of the impact too. An incredibly compassionate community, I am pleased that Guelph is home to Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik and the Masai Centre for Local, Regional and Global Health and the “Bracelets of Hope” campaign.

The centre has a really incredible story. In 2003 a young boy named Masai was born to two HIV positive parents, yet through skilful and effective treatment, Masai was born HIV negative, something that would have been nearly impossible had he been born in Africa. Even if he had managed to be born HIV negative, without the proper treatment his parents would likely have joined the growing statistics of AIDS related deaths leaving behind broken families and orphan children.

It is frustratingly simple, really. There is a terrible problem with a workable solution.

The bill before us is substantially the same as the one we passed in March, 2011, but slightly streamlined. Bill C-398 includes the amendment pertaining to the definition of pharmaceutical products, including wording specific to the World Trade Organization General Council's decision of August 2003, reflecting international agreement on eligible drugs. Importantly, it also includes a one licence solution, enabling generic manufacturers to simultaneously sell multiple times to any country listed in schedule 2, cutting down on repetitious and burdensome red tape.

I would like to briefly address four myths about the bill.

The first myth is that the bill would weaken safeguards against the diversion and illegal sale of medicines. In fact, all safeguards currently in CAMR are maintained in the bill, which adds a further requirement for manufacturers to post certain information online that makes the process even more transparent.

The second myth is that the bill would remove measures to ensure the quality of exported medicines. In fact, Health Canada review continues to be required for all drugs exported under CAMR. There is no measure in the bill that would amend the Food and Drugs Act.

The third myth is that the bill would be contrary to Canada's obligations under WTO respecting intellectual property rights. In fact, CAMR and Bill C-398 are the Canadian implementation of agreements reached by all countries at the WTO, including Canada. Leading international legal experts all agree that the one licence solution proposed in Bill C-398 complies with WTO law.

The fourth myth is that like its predecessor the bill would remove the two-year limit on a licence. In fact, this was not carried over to this bill and the limit is not removed.

Also important to remember is that the bill continues the practice that generic manufacturers can only ship certain quantities of drugs. Listed countries must provide a notification of the quantities they need to the WTO. Generic manufacturers are only authorized to provide that notified quantity to those listed countries.

When this bill's predecessor was last before Parliament, I made the appeal that if we did not vote for the bill, we would wake up tomorrow and, as a country, would be no better able to help 7,100 newly-infected people with HIV. Nor would we be in a position to prevent another 7,100 people from becoming infected two days from now.

It is as true now as it was then. The problem has not changed. If anything, it continues to get worse. The solutions are present. It is time we move the bill to committee, make the necessary amendments and start to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.

I implore all members to support the bill.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

November 21st, 2012 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-398, An Act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes), which would amend Canada's access to medicines regime. In considering how I will vote on this bill and my approach moving forward, I will be clear that no one is more to the front my mind than the people in the developing world who need drugs and help.

While the spirit and intentions of this bill are laudable, the proposed amendments would not achieve their intended effects and would prove costly to our economy and damage our credibility in the world. The case for Bill C-398 rests on a few basic myths.

The first myth is that the Canadian access to medicines regime does not work. In fact, Canada is the only country in the world to have used this kind of regime to export medicines. In 2007, it took the Canadian government only 15 days to issue a licence, resulting in the shipment of nearly 16 million tablets to Rwanda for the treatment of HIV-AIDS.

A second myth is that Bill C-398 will save lives. This bill would in fact do nothing to save lives or deliver a larger quantity of essential medicines to developing countries in need. Rather, Canada's approach in funding medicines for those who need them most is saving lives and will continue to do so.

These amendments will not change the economics of drug supply. Less costly alternatives will always be available from emerging markets. Canada is not and will never be a low-cost producer, such as India or other emerging economies. India supplies over 80% of donor-funded antiretrovirals to developing countries.

This is not only about one country. Brazil, Thailand and South Africa also produce a significant amount of affordable medicines. We should not be surprised that even after CAMR was requested and used successfully to send medicines to Rwanda, that country soon found a more affordable alternative source in India.

The bill also ignores what the World Health Organization's panel of independent medical experts from the developed and developing world have said. Over 98% of the medicines on the World Health Organization's list of essential medicines are either generic or not patent protected in the developing world.

Developing countries are telling us that patent protection is not the issue. Despite some improvements in public health, the real challenge facing them is a lack of resources, which is yet another reason they always go for the most affordable source, which will always be the emerging markets.

Canada is addressing the real issue of resources by delivering aid to fight serious public health problems, such as HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Our government's plan to fight disease and deprivation is delivering results through our leadership on key global initiatives. Canada has been a leader in supporting the global fund to fight HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. This fund has become one of the most important instruments for countries in need to access lower cost medicines. In 2010, our government pledged $540 million to the global fund, bringing Canada's total commitment to more than $1.4 billion.

Through the global fund, 3.6 million people living with HIV-AIDS currently receive treatment and 1.5 million HIV positive pregnant women receive treatment to prevent mother to child transmission. According to the global fund, Canada is the top contributor on a per capita basis.

Canada has also pledged $149.6 million to the Stop TB Partnership's global drug facility to procure quality assured anti-tuberculosis drugs. Since shipments began in 2009, the number of people receiving modern TB treatment has increased from 32% to 61% of estimated sufferers.

We have pledged $450 million over 10 years to the Africa health systems initiative towards strengthening health systems to ensure that facilities and expertise are in place to make effective use of the medicines we deliver.

Canada has also provided $2.85 billion to champion the Muskoka initiative on maternal, newborn and child health. Through the Muskoka initiative, Canada has taken action to support the provision of medicines, vaccines and the other actions needed to prevent and treat diseases that are the main causes of maternal and child mortality. In Afghanistan, we have trained more than 1,455 health workers. In Mozambique, we have increased the number of women giving birth in health facilities to 64%. In Tanzania, we have provided primary health care services to more than 43 million people.

These and other Canadian-led efforts are yielding positive outcomes. According to the joint United Nations program on HIV-AIDS and the World Health Organization, an estimated 8 million people living with HIV in low and middle-income countries were receiving antiretroviral therapy at the end of 2011. That is a 25-fold increase over the last decade, and I do not want that number to be skipped over.

According to the World Health Organization, the number of people receiving proper treatment for tuberculosis has almost quadrupled, from 1.9 million in 2000 to 7.7 million in 2010, and the incidence rates are declining worldwide.

We have a proven track record and we will not rest while millions suffer in the developing world.

A third myth is that Bill C-398 would comply with our international obligations. However, it would clearly remove the central protections in our laws. Canadian jobs are at stake as we become less attractive for trade and innovation and lose access to vital international research partnerships that lead to the development of lifesaving medicines in Canada.

The bill would remove the notification requirement, the quantity requirement on licence when issued, the requirement to name the recipient country and application and the eligibility requirements for countries that could use CAMR. All of these would violate our international obligations. There is even a risk of diversion of medicines into the wrong hands rather than go to people in countries who truly need them.

Bill C-398 would also have unintended consequences of creating delays in shipments by introducing more discretion into the regime. Currently, if an application, one, identifies a listed drug and country, two, includes the WTO notification and three, provides information about the relevant patents, the Commissioner of Patents has no choice but to grant the licences. The proposals in Bill C-398 would require the commissioner to exercise discretion regarding eligibility. This could introduce delay and an opportunity for patent holders to challenge the licence in court. Why would we add red tape to the system?

Canada's approach is addressing the real problem by leading global initiatives to provide medicines against HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria for those in need. The bill would not deliver more lifesaving medicines. Instead, it would harm our economy and our trade and research partnerships.

It is for these reasons that I urge all hon. members of Parliament not to support Bill C-398, but instead to focus on the many things that Canada is doing that are making a real impact on the lives of the people around the world who most need it.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

November 21st, 2012 / 7:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand and speak in support of Bill C-398. As others have said, the bill is an act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes). In summary, the act amends the Patent Act to make it easier for manufacturers and exporters of pharmaceutical products to address public health problems affecting many developing countries and least developed countries, especially those resulting from HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics.

I have to say that I am somewhat shocked by the words of the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Industry, who is clearly signalling that the government will be voting against the bill. I do not want to get away from my comments on the bill and its importance, but there is another serious issue here, which is that Parliament is not allowed to work the way it should. If the government has concerns about this private member's bill, then it could bring forward some sensible amendments that might fix some of the problems.

In the previous vote, I did see some courage coming from the government's Conservative backbenchers for a change. A private member's motion passed tonight. That is unusual. It passed because, for once, some Conservative backbench members decided to stand up against the wishes of cabinet.

I would plead with the Conservative backbench members to look at the bill. Does it need changes to address some of the concerns the parliamentary secretary talked about? I would not say that all of his concerns were wrong because they may not be, but the government has the authority, power, legal advice and drafters to assist in making the bill all that it should be. We are not just talking about widgets here. We are talking about lives in other countries. We are talking about people.

I know the parliamentary secretary meant what he said with respect to his concerns in Africa and other countries. I believe him on that point. However, the fact of the matter is that if this place were working properly, it could fix the bill to accommodate the concerns of government and save some lives in the global community. That is what we should be focusing on, not whether or not it meets this little factor or that one.

I was here with Prime Minister Chrétien when the previous bill passed in an attempt to help Africa. It was the right thing to do. However, there were some problems with the technical and regulatory requirements in terms of moving generic drugs into Africa, and we did not achieve Prime Minister Chrétien's intent and objectives because of those overburdening criteria. However, we can fix this bill to do that.

In simple terms, the purpose of the bill is to improve access to needed medicines in developing countries by allowing generic drug companies to make and export essential drugs to a list of countries. Why is that important? Let me turn to a UNICEF Canada fact sheet, which explains it better than I could: increased access to ARV medicines is required for preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV-AIDS and to treat children who are infected with HIV. These are the facts.

I agree with the parliamentary secretary when he said that some progress has been made. That is true. However, more progress, and rapid progress, needs to be made. We have the ability in the industrialized world, and in Canada, to help out in terms of preventing AIDS, and that is what we ought to be doing.

The facts on mothers is that only 48% of pregnant women receive the most effective regimes for preventing mother-to-child transmission. On infants, only 42% among the estimated 1.49 million infants born to mothers living with HIV received antiretroviral medicine to prevent HIV transmission from their mothers. Children represented 7% of those receiving antiretroviral therapy and 14% of the people who needed it. Of the more than two million children estimated to need antiretroviral therapy, only 23% had access to treatment versus 51% for adults.

The fact sheet goes on to talk about the solution, which is that greater access can be achieved in part by reducing the cost of commodities, such ARV therapy. UNICEF supports this bill and believes it would go some distance to saving lives, which is what is important at the end of the day.

Why, from Canada's perspective, is this bill important? I do not think I can do any better than quote my colleague from Kingston and the Islands when he talked about why it was so important that Canada is one of the main countries that does this. He stated:

Some medicines are expensive and the point of CAMR is to make available to developing countries safe, generic versions of medicines manufactured in Canada and to do it within international rules on trade and on intellectual property rights. It is intended to provide the competitive pressure to reduce the cost barrier to those countries that would never be able to afford the medicine but would greatly benefit from it and where people are in dire need of the medicine. We know that other countries can produce generic drugs but the Canadian product is produced with higher standards in quality control and it will provide competition on that basis.

That spells out why it is important that Canada is a country using, through its authority, its ability to move generic drugs to countries and the people who need it.

In the beginning, I talked about the bill that was introduced in a former Parliament, in 2004, and that some will try to use that as an excuse that there is already a law in place to deal with the problem and ask why the changes in this bill are required. It is quite simple. I, in part, suggested it before. In 2004, Parliament passed a bill, known as the Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa, that created what is now known as Canada's access to medicines regime, or CAMR. However, evidence has shown that the technical and regulatory matters within the bill have made it less than effective and Bill C-398 would fix those problems.

Canada is part of a global community and we can show the global community that Parliament can act in a responsible way to save lives around the world. If the government, as the parliamentary secretary has said, has concerns, then some amendments should be put forward to address those concerns that industry or whoever may have. We have a responsibility to other citizens around the world.

I urge members on all sides of the House to support this bill and move it forward so we can save lives around the world.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

November 21st, 2012 / 7:15 p.m.
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NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the privilege today to speak to this incredibly important bill on behalf of my constituents from Surrey North.

The bill was put forward by my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie. Bill C-398 is an act to amend the Patent Act, basically drugs for international humanitarian purposes. It is known as medicines for all.

If passed, the bill will ensure affordable treatment for diseases, such as HIV-AIDS, malaria and TB, for the world's poorest who are suffering and dying without treatment for these and other diseases because they cannot afford medicines.

One child dies every three seconds in the world for the want of quality treatment medicines. One in two children born with HIV will die before his or her second birthday.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 22 million people are currently infected with HIV-AIDS. It is an area that has been the hardest hit by this pandemic. It has 68% of the global total and 90% of the world's children with HIV-AIDS. HIV impedes maternal health and is responsible for an additional 61,000 deaths of mothers per year. Only one-third of the patients living with HIV-AIDS who need treatment receive it, and children are the most underserved group.

We know that Canada's access to medicine regime, known as CAMR, is broken and that it needs to be fixed in order to allow Canadian generic drug companies to send life-saving medicines to people who so desperately need them. That is precisely what the bill would do. It would simply fix the existing regulations that are mired in red tape. The bill would get rid of the unnecessary red tape that prevents CAMR from fulfilling its own mandate. CAMR is supposed to allow for the export of the generic versions of pharmaceuticals to developing countries but it is broken. The New Democrats are proposing this practical solution to fix this for once and for all.

Generic competition is the single most important factor in reducing the price of medicines for these people. In the case of some HIV-AIDS drugs, generic competition has reduced the prices by as much as 95%.

Gains have been made in the treatment for people living with HIV-AIDS but only one-third of those who need treatment actually receive it. In some countries, access to treatment is being reduced rather than increased.

When it comes to HIV-AIDS, cheap medicine is the prevention. Research has shown that early and aggressive treatment of HIV infected individuals with antiretroviral drugs, also known as ARVs, reduce the transmission of disease by 96%.

Bill C-398 is one tool at our disposal to ensure that affordable treatment reaches as many of the world's poor as possible. We, in this House, have the power to make this happen and I would strongly urge and argue that we have an obligation to make this happen. I urge members across the aisle to urgently pass the bill. It is my sincere hope that members from all parties will support this legislation. This is a moral imperative. It is a matter of conscience. It is a matter of compassion. It is basic humanity.

The bill proposes a reasonable, one licence solution that would allow generic manufacturers to supply approved medication to any eligible country on the WTO list of countries that are in need of affordable medicines.

This need is dire. CAMR is broken and it is failing to meet its goal. In five years, CAMR has been used only once to supply a single order of three in one AIDS medicines to Rwanda, but this one instance required years of effort and was so complicated that CAMR has not been used since then.

This needs to be fixed. For a solution that we already have in place, it has taken far too long. We can provide those drugs to those nations.

The bill already passed in the House of Commons with a healthy majority in March 2011, but sadly it died on the order paper in the other place. Again, I respectfully ask my colleagues on all sides of the House to help ensure that this time the bill passes in the House. It needs to be passed in an urgent way. It just makes sense to me. That is why 80% of Canadians support this initiative. That is why organizations such as UNICEF, World Vision Canada, the United Church of Canada, the Federation of Medical Women of Canada, the YWCA and the Canadian Federation of University Women support this initiative.

The bill would not cost any money to taxpayers either, not a penny. We can provide access to affordable, quality medicines to enable people in African countries and other developing nations to survive and thrive, without costing Canadian taxpayers a cent. Also, the market for medicines in poorer countries represents a very tiny portion of global sales for brand name pharmaceuticals. For example, the entire continent of Africa totals about 2% of their sales. Canada's largest generic pharmaceutical manufacturer, Apotex Inc., has publicly committed to making a three-in-one AIDS drug suited for children in developing countries if CAMR is reformed.

CAMR reform would also be fully compatible with the World Trade Organization's regulations and treaties. The WTO has repeatedly stated that compulsory licensing to increase the supply of affordable medicines to poorer countries is in keeping with WTO regulations and international legal experts endorse this position.

We can help restore Canada to a position of leadership in terms of our response to these global public health crises. Public health crises including HIV-AIDS, TB and malaria represent massive human, social and economic burdens for developing countries, significantly impeding their development. Only one-third of the patients living with HIV-AIDS who need treatment receive it, and I have said that children are the most underserved within this group. The need for treatment is increasing, yet funding is shrinking. The global fund that helps fund HIV-AIDS, TB and malaria is under particular strain. CAMR reform would encourage further generic competition, which would in fact enable the global fund and governments to stretch their limited dollars further.

The bill would be one tool at our disposal to ensure that affordable treatment for diseases such as HIV-AIDS, malaria and TB would reach as many of the world's poor as possible. We made a promise to developing countries when we established CAMR. We have failed in that promise. It is time to right the wrong for the sake of those who are suffering without the medicine they need so badly and for developing countries that are in desperate need of affordable medicines to address public health crises.

I again urge the House to unite in a global cause so that we can make a difference in the many parts of the world where help is needed. I urge my Conservative and Liberal colleagues and all members of the House to vote in favour of the bill, so that we can be compassionate and we can look after those who are in need of medicine throughout the world.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

November 21st, 2012 / 7:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand in this place and speak to private member's Bill C-398. At the outset I would like to thank our parliamentary secretary, the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, for his longstanding work within the autism community. We understand his passion for doing the right thing in the case of autism, and we also know his compassion not just for the underprivileged and those in need here in Canada but also around the world. I want to thank him for his involvement in this debate.

Our government is committed to fighting public health challenges in the developing world and we support the underlying humanitarian objectives of Canada's access to medicines regime. We are of the view and accept that the bill is well-intentioned. We believe that those who drafted the bill have tried to fix a worthy cause, but make no mistake, the bill fails and falls far short. These amendments will not deliver on the stated objectives listed. They will not deliver more affordable medicines to the developing world and will not save lives.

This is the type of bill that I have often thought is an ideal one for the opposition. It is a bill by which the opposition members can find and bring forward a cause with passion, but when we study it and see what it will accomplish, it will end up hurting the cause.

There has never been a government in Canada that has implemented this type of bill, for very good reason. It can cause great harm and in the long run let people down. I am disappointed to say that Bill C-398 will not enable us to deliver more medicines to those who need them in the developing world. Instead, it may be a hindrance.

Even if the bill passes, Canada would not be an affordable source of medicines for the developing world. We will simply not be able to compete on price with emerging markets, as our parliamentary secretary pointed out. In fact, according to data from the World Health Organization, India is the largest supplier of antiretrovirals to developing countries. It supplies an estimated 80% of donor funded antiretrovirals to the developing world.

Bill C-398 will not address any of these realities of the lower costs in emerging markets. Developing countries will continue to choose available lower cost alternatives, and while Canada boasts a world-class generic pharmaceutical industry with high manufacturing standards and an acknowledged commitment to supporting access to medicines initiatives in the developing world, its strength is not to compete on price with countries such as India, South Africa and China.

This is particularly the case for the supply of low cost HIV-AIDS products. Generic manufacturers in the countries mentioned are able to price their products for less on average than any developed country can. That includes us in Canada. The major international procurement efforts for the developing world are focused almost exclusively on those emerging markets mentioned by our parliamentary secretary.

The Canadian generic pharmaceutical industry stated in its testimony before the House of Commons standing committee in 2007 that it had neither the ability nor the inclination to become “the generic breadbasket to the developing world”. The bill does not change that. The Canadian access to medicines regime is still available to countries that need it. Canada is the only country to have used this tool to export medicines successfully.

Prior to Canada using the regime to import drugs in 2007, there is the example of Rwanda that my colleague pointed out, which was already procuring generic HIV drugs, primarily from India, at a steadily declining price. Today Rwanda does not need Canada's access to medicines regime for those drugs. Canada can be involved in many other ways. India is now supplying Rwanda with the same product produced by Apotex under Canada's access to medicines regime at a much lower price than we would provide.

That is not to say that Canada no longer has a role to play in Rwanda. Our government continues to be a significant contributor to the global fund, one of the key development partners supporting the HIV-AIDS response in Rwanda. The work of the global fund and other funding mechanisms have generated significant improvements to the AIDS response in Rwanda. According to recent World Health Organization guidelines, Rwanda has one of the highest rates of antiretroviral coverage, reaching almost 90% in 2010 from 13% in 2004. HIV prevalence is now less than 3% in the general population of Rwanda. That is a remarkable success story.

The conclusion to be drawn from the Rwandan scenario is that, when there is a need for them, the tools we have work. Canada's access to medicines regime did its part to help the Rwandan people, as did Canadian and partner funds put towards purchasing generic drugs from countries with competitive pricing. While the government's commitment to addressing public health problems in the developing world is unwavering, we have significant concerns that Bill C-398 would result in the elimination of many elements of the regime that hold it in balance.

The approach proposed in Bill C-398, the so-called “one-licence” solution, would hinder innovation and research in Canada. In addition, many of the bill's proposed changes would violate our international trade obligations. The approach suggested by the bill would allow the Commissioner of Patents to grant an export licence without first verifying whether the importing country has made the necessary notification. In fact, a licence would not only be issued without knowing where the product will be shipped and the identity of the buyers, but also with no indication of the amount being purchased. This would cause serious transparency problems and would increase the potential for the diversion of drugs away from the people who need them the most.

The bill would also remove protections that provide incentives for research into new and innovative drugs and medical devices. This research benefits all Canadians by improving our knowledge, generating research infrastructure and creating more highly paid skilled jobs in Canada. It leads to innovations that will help people live longer, healthier and more productive lives. It is also key to our international humanitarian efforts as we strive to develop medicines that will benefit those in need.

Canada's access to medicines regime and regimes like it are only one tool in the global box. When evaluating the system, it makes much more sense to look at results, namely, whether the global supply of lower-cost medicines has increased based on Canada's leadership.

It has been said before, but I would like to remind the House of some of the remarkable statistics that show how Canada's support for global initiatives has made a difference in the treatment of public health problems in the developing world. Canadian taxpayers have provided $540 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 2011-12. Through this fund, 3.6 million people living with HIV-AIDS currently receive antiretroviral treatment.

It is a worthy cause with the right intentions without a doubt. Those who support this have a passion to see people helped. However, we need to do it in a way that is sustainable and productive, a way that keeps our treaties with those countries over the long term and would not push us to the periphery.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

November 21st, 2012 / 7:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the last few months I have heard from many stakeholders about Bill C-398. I have met with brand name and generic pharmaceutical companies. I have met with NGOs. I have met with so many Canadians who want to see this bill passed. In the last week, alone, I have received over 2,800 emails of support in my office. The grandmothers have collected over 23,000 signatures in support of this bill through their cross-Canada petitions.

Bill C-398 has the support of more than 80 international NGOs, including Médecins sans Frontières, Apostolic Faith Mission in Lesotho, the Church of Scotland, and the U.K.'s Stop AIDS Campaign. Within Canada, there are over 250 NGOs and community groups in support of this, including World Vision, Results Canada, AQOCI, Care Canada, UNICEF, Oxfam, and organizations, such as the City of Prince Albert and the HIV Network of Edmonton. We have the support of faith leaders across the country.

We know that generic manufacturers support this bill, and they are ready to provide a one-dose AIDS medication for children should this bill become law. Importantly, the brand name pharmaceutical companies of Canada have written to us to say that they do not oppose this legislation.

Like us, like all the others, Rx&D want to make CAMR work. They have stated their guiding principles and we are in agreement with them. These include transparency with respect to the product and the amount of product. We agree, and Bill C-398 addresses this. They want to see flexibility with respect to the amount of product that is sent overseas so there will be enough to meet public health needs, and of course we agree with that. Their concerns about anti-diversion are fair, and they are addressed in the legislation. Their concerns about eligible countries are fair, and we are open to discussing that at the committee stage. Like them, we agree that the products should be approved by Health Canada. In fact, Bill C-398 does not change that. Finally, they speak of the principle of an appeal mechanism, which is also fair. We have no problem with that.

Like hundreds of NGOs, and like most Canadians, 80% like the generic companies. The brand name pharmaceutical industry is ready to see this bill at the foreign affairs committee. My colleagues across the aisle should be ready for that too.

In fact, the only people who seem to oppose this legislation are some colleagues on the other side, who have been misinformed through outdated and misguided talking points. Their opposition to the bill is based on incorrect information or a lack of information.

In this respect, I was a bit surprised to hear the parliamentary secretary on the matter and to realize the Minister of Industry does not seem to know the industry is on board with this bill. That is a bit surprising. I have heard things, such as the bill removes the need for notification of quantities and things like that. I am flabbergasted. Have these people read the bill? The bill does not do that.

I heard very briefly that it would be costly to the economy. That is not the case. I have heard that CAMR works, but people who are involved in it say it does not work, that it does not change the economics of drug supply. That is wrong. Competition brings the prices down. A portion of medicines are already generic, but this bill is aimed at those medicines that are not generic. I will not go down the list, because unfortunately I do not have time.

It is so important that we, as parliamentarians, vote on this bill based on the correct information. It would be a very sad day if my colleagues on the other side of the House refused to join the consensus that includes pharmaceutical companies and 80% of Canadians.

I urge them to remember when they vote that this bill would save lives. I encourage all of my colleagues to take the time to study the bill. My door is open to them. Next Wednesday, let us vote for life, let us vote for CAMR reform.

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Private Members’ Business

October 16th, 2012 / 6:20 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

moved that Bill C-398, An Act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a somewhat emotional moment for me to see debate begin this evening on Bill C-398, the purpose of which is to reform Canada’s access to medicines regime. Essentially, this bill could save hundreds of thousands of lives. I am therefore really very honoured.

This is not the first time that the House has had the opportunity to discuss a bill of this type, that is, a bill relating to Canada’s access to medicines regime. It may therefore be worthwhile to review the history of that regime. In 2004, the House of Commons unanimously adopted Canada’s access to medicines regime, in response to World Trade Organization decisions designed to ensure that patent legislation did not prevent the developed countries from doing their basic humanitarian duty and providing medicines to people in the most disadvantaged countries, who are in desperate need of them.

Unfortunately, in the years that followed, we realized that the system approved in 2004 was not working, because there were all sorts of obstacles and problems with its basic model.

In fact, during the first attempt at using CAMR, Canada's access to medicines regime, people rapidly realized that there were too many roadblocks that were not foreseen when the original law was drafted. There was basically too much red tape preventing it from functioning.

And so it was decided that something had to be done to make sure that Canada’s access to medicines regime did what it was meant to do. Accordingly, in 2009, the first bill to reform Canada’s access to medicines regime was introduced. It is important to note that the bill had widespread support at the time.

Tens of thousands of citizens signed a petition supporting the bill. A poll revealed that 80% of Canadians approved of the bill. Civil society rose to the challenge and numerous organizations, some of which are here this evening, started speaking out and working very hard in support of the bill. Finally, MPs from all parties united in the House of Commons to approve the bill. Unfortunately, it died on the order paper.

As my mother would have said: “Measure twice, cut once.” That is why we have to get back to work on this today and put this bill back on the agenda. We have to do it because this is a necessary bill, one that so many people are hoping for.

In the last few months I have met numerous actors. I have talked to loads of people concerned with this issue. I have met with brand name and generic pharmaceutical companies. I have met with citizens; with civil society organizations; with people active in the field, working in Africa, for example; and with MPs and senators. I can say that I am really confident that together we can achieve this. We can reform CAMR and make it work.

The essential point is that reforming Canada’s access to medicines regime is a win-win situation. The pharmaceutical companies win, of course. They gain access to new markets—markets, it is important to note, that are of little or negligible importance to the biggest pharmaceutical companies. Africa, for example, represents only 2% of the big pharmaceutical companies’ sales. This is a win for generic drug companies.

The big pharmaceutical companies also win because they are making a social contribution. That is important. I know it is important to them and they are committed to this. They lose very little, because we are talking about markets that hold little value for them, as I said, and they receive royalties.

Canadian taxpayers also win. They win, first, because the bill will not cost them a single penny. As someone said, the only cost associated with the bill is the electricity for evenings when we sit like this and discuss the bill. However, they win at an even more basic level, because this bill will mean that more can be done with our very limited development assistance resources.

As has been said, it is very simple: the generic drug companies will allow medicines to be supplied that will be cheaper, much cheaper, because the competition the generic companies engage in, in the markets, is the biggest factor in reducing the cost of medicines; in fact, this factor can reduce costs by up to 95%. That amounts to an enormous figure. So we can do a lot more with the same amount of money, and this in turn will make our co-operation much more effective.

I have lived in Africa. I have seen the effect these diseases have on people. We are talking about AIDS, but also about tuberculosis and malaria. Those diseases do not just destroy lives; they destroy families and communities. They are often the main factor holding back development in these countries. If we want the money we invest in international aid to be effective, it is absolutely essential that we use this tool to help combat these public health crises.

The pharmaceutical companies and Canadian taxpayers win, but ultimately, and most importantly, let us not forget that people in the developing countries win, human beings who are in desperate need of these medicines.

We must remember that sub-Saharan Africa is the region most affected by the AIDS pandemic and more often than not does not have the resources to deal with it. Sub-Saharan Africa is where 90% of the children in the world who have AIDS live, and one child in two born with HIV will die before their second birthday.

We are talking about tens, hundreds of thousands of people who are waiting for this aid, people for whom it will make things enormously better.

This also highlights the fact that the functioning CAMR would contribute significantly to the government's child and maternal health initiative and would stretch our aid money by providing low-cost medicine to the people who need it most. I think it is really a win-win situation for everyone.

We can reform CAMR and make it work. If we can do it, then we should do it because it will save lives.

We can do it by working together and listening to all the Canadians who have already stood up, who have been standing up for years, to say this is the right thing to do, it is what they want their representatives to do.

In fact, on the question of the contributions by Canadians and Canadian organizations all across the country, I cannot fail to mention the extraordinary role played by so many individuals and organizations that have put all their energy into supporting this private member’s bill.

I am thinking in particular of Richard Elliott of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and Pat Evans, Bonnie Johnson, Andrea Beal, Bev McGibbon and Norah Menzies of the Grandmothers Advocacy Network, also known as GRAN.

I am talking about Meg French and Carleen McGuinty of UNICEF.

I am talking about of Tara Fischer and Robin Jackson of the Canadian Federation of University Women.

I am talking about Anne Gardiner of Bracelet of Hope, and Pastor James Qhobela of the Apostolic Faith Mission Social Development Division of Lesotho and his wife, who I had the pleasure of meeting.

I am talking about Ariane Cartwright of Results Canada.

I also want to express special thanks to the Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale, or AQOCI, and its executive director, Gervais L'Heureux, for their support. Thanks to support like that from partners and from tens of thousands of Canadians who have stood up and called on their representatives to approve this bill, we can do it. We can reform Canada’s access to medicines regime and we can save lives, in the interests of us all.

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Private Members’ Business

October 16th, 2012 / 6:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-398, An Act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes), which aims to modify certain fundamental aspects of Canada's access to medicines regime.

I join many members of the House in viewing the regime as a key component of Canada's long-term, multi-faceted approach to addressing the serious public health problems that affect many low and middle-income countries. However, this is only one weapon in the arsenal Canada has put together to fight disease, to provide access to medicines and to improve health conditions in the developing world.

In addition to our access to medicines regime, Canada makes significant contributions to global mechanisms for the procurement of low-cost drugs to respond to the needs of the developing world. Canada continues to provide leadership in the global fight against diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Canadians are proud to have invested more per capita than any other country, according to the global fund.

Our comprehensive approach combines prevention of the spread of disease in co-operation with international partners to increase the impact of our funding and lower delivery costs; leadership, through initiatives such as the Muskoka initiative, to improve the health of children and mothers; and innovation to provide the right climate for the development of new medicines and treatments. Our strong track record of support also includes being a founding donor to the global drug facility, being the single largest donor of first-line tuberculosis drugs and working with the Gates Foundation to advance the HIV vaccine.

We embrace the bill's laudable objectives of improving public health in the developing world. However, it would not accomplish this goal.

Independent experts have testified that it would not benefit those in need. It cannot change the fact that there is a demand for lower-cost generic drugs from emerging markets. For instance, India produces 80% of the antivirals funded by countries such as Canada for the developing world. The bill would eliminate many of the checks and balances that were built into the current regime to prevent misuse, which could harm researchers who have invested their energy and know-how into developing new life-saving drugs. The approach suggested in the bill would hold back continued pharmaceutical investment here in Canada and reduce the type of new and innovative therapies being brought to the Canadian market.

Finally, many of the bill's proposed changes are not in keeping with the spirit of the World Trade Organization decision on which Canada's access to medicines regime is based. This decision was designed to provide access to countries facing health emergencies but lacking the means of acquiring needed medicines. The intention of the decision was to remove patents viewed as a barrier to the supply of drugs needed to address public health issues in developing nations. The decision brought together divergent stakeholder views to come up with the appropriate response to public health issues in the developing world, while at the same time respecting intellectual property protections. It was viewed as just one part of the broader international strategy to combat diseases that impact the developing world, a strategy to which Canada has been a key contributor.

In the end, the decision achieved the unanimous support of all members of the World Trade Organization. The World Trade Organization decision ensures that patent rules do not preclude the manufacturing and exporting of cheaper generic copies of patented medicines to the developing countries facing public health emergencies. The international consensus was that it was important to have safeguards to guarantee that the system would only be used for humanitarian purposes and would not be used and diverted for unintended purposes.

Canada's access to medicines regime incorporated all the key elements required by the World Trade Organization decision. It provides a framework for countries to access less expensive generic versions of patented drugs. It also respects Canada's domestic intellectual property framework.

Why is a stable and predictable international intellectual property regime important in Canada?

Intellectual property protection provides incentives for companies to invest in research and development into new and innovative drugs and medical devices. This research and development benefits all Canadians by improving our knowledge, generating research infrastructure, creating more highly paid, skilled jobs in Canada and leading to innovations that will help people live longer, healthier and more productive lives.

The protection and promotion of patents and innovation in the domestic pharmaceutical sector is also key in achieving this government's international humanitarian objectives. The generic industry relies on its brand name competitors to innovate in order to have the products to copy and to sell here in Canada and abroad.

Bill C-398 would interfere with the balanced approach of Canada's access to medical regime and make Canada a less stable, less reliable and less welcoming place for those people who want to invest and innovate.

There are clear reasons to believe that the proposed amendments would be inconsistent with Canada's trade obligations and harm our relationship of trust with our international trading and research partners.

The provisions of the Canadian access to medicines regime were carefully considered, designed and implemented to comply with the World Trade Organization rules. The intention of these rules was to address serious health issues in low and middle-income countries and not to create a system of exporting an unlimited amount of medicines for any reason without the proper checks. These rules require that countries have to notify the World Trade Organization of their intention to use the system. Bill C-398 would remove this requirement and, along with other proposed changes, would alter the intended purpose of the regime. It would also remove the mandatory safety reviews by Health Canada that are currently required.

Canada's approach has a proven track record of improving access to treatment and health care delivery. Together, the global efforts that Canada supports are producing significant results. The supply of lower cost medicines has increased as has their ability to those in need. I will give one example. According to the World Health Organization, nearly eight million people living with HIV in low and middle-income countries are now receiving HIV antiviral treatment.

Our government continues to support an access to medicine regime with the proper checks and balances, that respects our international obligations and serves as one essential part of a comprehensive approach to improving health and fighting diseases in developing countries.

For those reasons, I urge all members of the House not to support Bill C-398.

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Private Members’ Business

October 16th, 2012 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie for bringing this matter before us again by introducing this bill.

I thank the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie for bringing forward Bill C-398, which would amend the Canadian access to medicines regime. It is my pleasure to speak today in support of the bill and to move it to committee stage by voting for it at second reading. It is time to move the bill to committee and move on the legislative process, which was interrupted in the last election after it passed this House with support from all parties.

We are very fortunate in Canada that we live in a country where we are able to benefit from medication and as a country we have the infrastructure and the know-how to produce medicines. As Canadians, we also feel that we have an obligation to help those around the planet who are less fortunate, who are sick or dying and could be helped if they had access to medicines that exist today.

That was the motivation for Bill C-9, the original Canada access to medicines regime, also known as the Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa Act.

Some medicines are expensive and the point of CAMR is to make available to developing countries safe, generic versions of medicines manufactured in Canada and to do it within international rules on trade and on intellectual property rights. It is intended to provide the competitive pressure to reduce the cost barrier to those countries that would never be able to afford the medicine but would greatly benefit from it and where people are in dire need of the medicine. We know that other countries can produce generic drugs but the Canadian product is produced with higher standards in quality control and it will provide competition on that basis.

CAMR came into force in 2005 but, as people have noticed, since that time this regime has only been used to provide one shipment of medicine to one country so far, which is why we believe there are barriers. One of the barriers that has been identified is the cumbersome licensing process.

The core of Bill C-398 is to provide the so-called one licence solution, which would remove the need for each individual country to make a request for a compulsory licence to produce generic drugs that are needed for serious health problems in these countries. It would remove the need for individual countries to apply and, instead, a Canadian generic pharmaceutical manufacturer would apply for the licence for all countries.

This reform has been sought for several years now, and in the previous Parliament, Bill C-393, upon which Bill C-398 is based, passed this House with support from all parties and probably would have come into force had the May 2011 election not been called.

I want to expand a little bit on the remarks that my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie made and I want to talk a little bit about intellectual property issues, which were the subject of the speech by my hon. colleague from the Conservative benches.

Advocates for reforming CAMR do not wish to jeopardize pharmaceutical R and D in Canada. They have said that an I think they do believe in the importance of the knowledge economy , and one of its pillars, the value of intellectual property.

I think we all agree that Canada's future will depend very much on its participation in the knowledge economy and nobody wants our kids to be competing in the world on the basis of providing the lowest cost labour. I believe that the drafters of Bill C-398 recognize some of these concerns.

For example, Bill C-398 improves upon Bill C-393 in that respect by specifying that Canadian generic manufacturers must post online the quantities of medicine being exported to each country. They must also put online the notification that each WTO country gave to the WTO trade related aspects of intellectual property rights council, or, for a non-WTO country, the notice that country gave to the Government of Canada.

The old bill, Bill C-393 from the last Parliament, at first removed a two-year time limit on licences before a renewal was required. In the last Parliament this was amended in committee to restore that time limit. Bill C-398 keeps that two-year time limit in the current draft. Drafters of the bill have responded to concerns about an open-ended licence in time.

In the spirit of the changes that the drafters of Bill C-398 have made, compared to Bill C-393 that already passed the House in the last Parliament, we could make some amendments to emphasize that it is not the intent of the bill to negatively impact any R and D investment in Canada. It is not the intent of the bill to devalue intellectual property that is a pillar of a knowledge economy.

People have asked me, for example, why Qatar is on the list of countries in the bill. It is a country with a per capita income of $90,000 per annum. I believe that no one wants that distraction. It really is distracting from the fact that people are sick and dying and need medicines that they cannot afford. Therefore, this is something we could look at in committee, the list of countries in schedule 2 of the bill, to remove these distractions that may lead people to question some aspects of the bill.

My colleague from the Conservative Party is worrying about safety issues. Some critics have worried that the generic drugs would not be subjected to safety reviews. However, section 21.04(3)(b) in the current legislation remains unchanged under Bill C-398 and affirms that any generic product must meet the requirements of the Food and Drugs Act and its regulations. Therefore, my hon. colleague is incorrect when he makes that point. It is an old point that was made in the past but this bill is slightly different and that point is covered. In fact, the advantage of importing drugs from Canada is that products are manufactured with higher standards and with better quality control.

I will be voting in favour of the bill. It is time to move toward reforming Canada's access to medicines regime, a process that was accidentally interrupted at the last election, but which had already passed the House. We must not delay in sending the bill to the next stage of the legislative process, to committee where we can examine it and related issues in detail, as we should examine every bill. We must move this bill to committee and I urge my colleagues to vote for the bill at second reading.

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Private Members’ Business

October 16th, 2012 / 6:55 p.m.
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NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the Bill C-398. I will start by giving some context to this bill. Then I will build on what has already been mentioned.

I want to discuss where this bill will matter the most, and that is in places like Africa. In fact, it is where the Prime Minister just visited, the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was there a couple of years ago to see some of the projects that had been funded by the World Bank. One of the projects I remember well was the HIV testing labs that had been set up. This was a good project. It was one that allowed people access to testing for HIV-AIDS and other diseases. Particularly important, was that access to testing there had been elusive and the capacity was set up. This is important because this is part of the bill that people have critiqued before, the capacity on the ground and that some might interfere.

I was able to see the testing being done with modern equipment. Testing all people was very successful, young people, men and women, and it was done in a way that we would see here. There was the same standard of anonymous testing that allowed people to be tested without stigma, which has been a huge problem during the years that people have been fighting this disease and others.

I was then taken to a warehouse, which Canada in the past had been helping out, where medicines were stored. That warehouse was half empty. This was the place where the medicines were stored for the people who had been tested and identified as having the HIV virus, in some cases full blown AIDS and other diseases were reliant upon. I was stunned. I was there with members of Parliament from other countries and asked where all the medicines were. They said that they could not get any. I asked why not and they said that was the problem with the system, that they could not get any because there were problems with patent barriers and getting safe drugs.

I will never forget it because we essentially gave people false hope. We gave them the indication that we were going to be helping them out, fortifying their health system and ensuring that people who we wanted to help were going to be identified first. We all know that without the next step, without providing treatment, we are essentially giving people notification of a death sentence. We are not there to help them. In fact we are there to say, “Here you are, here is your death sentence”, and walk away from them. That is what I saw on the ground in the Congo. That story is happening right across the developing world. We can do something about that. This bill is about that.

We can talk, and I will, about compliance, what happens with the WTO. This is about standards and ensuring there will be requirements in this bill to ensure we are going to follow the highest standards we have in place and not jeopardize the pharmaceutical, generic or research companies. We will be saying that a kid in the Congo will get the same access as my son would get, or a woman with HIV-AIDS in any part of the developing world will have the same access as my sister or nieces. That is what this is about. Fundamentally, this is about social justice. That is why so many people are in favour of it.

When we passed the bill in the House, I was very proud to be the author of the bill. However, it was not about me. It was about many people in the House who saw the value of working together as members of Parliament to make a difference for people in the rest of the world, in particular, the people in two-thirds of the world who live in poverty. It was a proud moment for me. I saw members of the Conservative Party working with members of the Liberal Party, the Bloc and New Democrats. It was a very proud day.

I would like to re-energize the House on this bill again. For those who might have some questions, let us talk about it. Let us see how we can make this work.

As was mentioned already, when the bill was first passed, it was a great idea. However, looking at the record, we were unable to get the drugs to those countries that needed them because of the barriers. Rwanda tried once, but there were too many barriers and it would not do it again.

This is analogous to getting oneself, or someone in one's family, a prescription for a life-saving medicine, but each time a pill is needed, one has to go back to the doctor, get the prescription, go to the store again and one may not even have money to buy it. This is what we are talking about, but on a national scale.

The bill would refine the process to have one licence. Therefore, once there is an arrangement between a country, ourselves and industry, it is done.

Do we monitor? Absolutely, and those provisions have been talked about. Do we make sure there is quality? Yes, no question about it. Who would want to jeopardize the quality of Canadian drugs?

One of the stories we heard today was from a senator who had been to Uganda. It was a very touching story about a pen pal of her grandson who she went to meet on a regular basis in Uganda. This past year she went to meet with this young boy, who is younger than my son who turns 14 today, and it was for the last time. She could not meet with him because he did not have access to safe malaria drugs in Uganda. This is the real world now and this bill could deal with that.

There are so many stories. There are stories of women who have been tested and have been told they can be helped. They could be given first-line treatment and if that did not work, then they could go to the second-line treatment. On this file, things have not stayed static, some things are fluid, and that is another important point.

We have fought the fight against HIV-AIDS and we have won many battles. We have not found the cure, but we have been able to manage the disease. However, as members know, over time the virus adapts to some of these medicines, so we need to have second and third-line regimes, or different combinations of drugs. The bill deals with this as well and it is crucial for the people we have helped in the past to stay alive.

For my friend for Peace River, let us talk. Anyone on that side who has a concern, let us sit down and talk. We have been talking to industry and this is something we can do. There are so many people who are counting on us to do this. This is not the time to turn away. It is not about partisanship. This is about reaching out to each other to help people somewhere else.

I am so damn proud of what the House did before. I saw Conservative members and people from all parts of Canada come together, faith communities particularly, standing up to say that they were going to do something to help their fellow men, women and children. They did not want to talk about it; they wanted do it. Fundamentally, that is what the bill is about and that is why I support it.

We need to talk about the issues so we can solve the problem. When I go back to Congo with any member of Parliament and we go to that warehouse after people have been tested, we will not see an empty warehouse. We will see it full. We will see people being taken care of. When we are asked, we can say that we stood up, we were there for people and we made a difference.

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Private Members’ Business

October 16th, 2012 / 7:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address Bill C-398, an act to amend the Patent Act, drugs for international humanitarian purposes. Unfortunately, even though we have heard a lot of discussion tonight, this bill would make Canada's Access to Medicines Regime unworkable and would not address the real challenges that face those suffering from disease.

Every member of the House shares a deep concern for the millions who are suffering from grave public health crises in the developing world. The statistics from the World Health Organization quite honestly are tragic. Nearly one million people, most of them children under the age of five years, die of malaria annually. Globally, more than 5,000 people die of AIDS every day. As Canadians, we will continue to do our part to make a difference. Our government has an approach that works to fight these diseases internationally.

The Canadian government has proven to be a global leader and highly active international partner in the fight against HIV-AIDS, TB and malaria. In addition to our continued support of Canada's Access to Medicines Regime as an avenue to access Canadian-made generic drugs, our government has been a key contributor to global efforts to supply low cost drugs to millions of people in need.

For instance, Canada has contributed $540 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for 2011-13. The global fund disburses funding for programs that reduce the impact of HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in low and middle-income countries. It has become one of the most significant factors in the fight against these diseases, treating 3.6 million people with HIV-AIDS, treating 9.3 million people with tuberculosis and distributing 270 million nets to prevent the spread of malaria.

Canada has a clear plan and a proven track record that is producing tangible results for public health in low and middle-income countries. Canada's substantial financial support through international partners has vastly improved access to treatment and health care delivery. Over 6.6 million people were receiving drug treatment for HIV-AIDS in Africa in 2010. That is over 23 times as many as the 280,000 who were receiving such treatment in 2002, just 10 years ago. In 2010, over 7.7 million people were receiving treatment for TB. That is 4 times as many as the 1.7 million who were receiving it in 2000.

Other major Canadian commitments include $450 million over 10 years to the Africa health systems initiative to ensure facilities and expertise are in place to make effective use of medicines. We have provided $149 million to the Global Drug Facility to stop tuberculosis, which has delivered more than 20 million treatments in 93 countries. Above all, Canada has been a leader in mobilizing global action by providing a total contribution of $2.85 billion to improve child and maternal health.

Of all the countries that have put in place an access to medicines regime, Canada is the only country to successfully use its regime to export drugs to a developing country. It took the government just two weeks to grant Apotex Inc., a Canadian generic pharmaceutical company, a license to export an HIV-AIDS drug to Rwanda. Canada's access to medicines regime, with the appropriate safeguards in place, ensured that high quality Canadian generic drugs reached those who needed them most. Rwanda now has one of the highest rates of antiretroviral coverage at almost 90% and HIV prevalence is now below 3% of the general population of Rwanda.

While we have made great strides in combatting these public health problems, we are not done. This bill, while laudable in its objectives, will not increase participation in Canada's access to medicines regime. Changing the regime will not change the fact that other avenues are used to procure low-cost drugs for low and middle income countries, such as the global fund to which Canada is a very strong contributor.

Some of the countries are able to find low-cost sources of generic medicines in the market, for instance, from producers in emerging markets such as India, which supplies an estimated 80% of donor-funded antiretrovirals to developing countries without needing to draw on Canada's access to medicines regime.

The Canadian regime can and will assist in the international supply of low-cost drugs only if there is an external demand for a Canadian generic drug.

This bill does not address the issues underlying the pressing health needs of the developing world. For many, changing patent rules for drugs is not the most relevant issue. In fact, more than 95% of the drugs that are sought are not patent-protected. Conditions such as poverty in developing countries are more significant obstacles to acquiring pharmaceuticals and appropriate health care.

We have heard testimony from a variety of witnesses with detailed knowledge of public health issues in the developing world. They would agree that continued investment is needed to strengthen national health systems, including human resources, technology and basic health infrastructure. The changes proposed by Bill C-398 would not make progress on these underlying issues.

In fact, Bill C-398 would remove essential safeguards. The bill would allow a generic manufacturer to export an unlimited amount of its drug. It would remove mandatory safety reviews by Health Canada, and it would reduce the transparency of the system. Bill C-398 would risk exported drugs being diverted back to richer, developed country markets.

This bill's approach is not in keeping with the World Trade Organization decision upon which Canada's access to medicines regime is based. It would undermine our trade relationships and reduce our access to key international research partnerships to help fight these very diseases.

In addition, by removing the key checks and balances of the regime, the bill could hinder continued pharmaceutical investment and growth in Canada.

Canada's access to medicines regime has an important role to play in providing access to cheaper generic drugs in developing nations, but it is just one tool among many. We will continue to encourage those in need to use the system and stand ready to respond to a request from any country in need that notifies us of its intention to import drugs.

We remain deeply committed to pursuing our comprehensive approach, providing Canadian leadership in the fight against disease and working to raise health care standards in the developing world.

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Routine Proceedings

February 16th, 2012 / 10:05 a.m.
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NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-398, An Act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes).

Mr. Speaker, today, I am proud to introduce my bill entitled An Act to amend the Patent Act.

This bill will modify the provisions of the current access to medicines regime, which allows Canada to export generic versions of drugs for HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other illnesses to developing countries, and it will make the regime easier to use.

This will enable Canadian manufacturers to send potentially life-saving medicines to those who desperately need them.

This bill is an improved version of Bill C-393, which the House passed by a comfortable margin last March but which, unfortunately, died on the order paper in the Senate.

When drafting this bill, I worked closely with the Grandmothers Advocacy Network and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. I would like to thank Pat Evans and Richard Elliott for their help.

The bill has already received significant support from all parties in the House. Over the coming months I will be encouraging my fellow parliamentarians to take this opportunity to support lifesaving legislation.

Together, with hope, love and optimism, we can make a difference.

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