House of Commons Hansard #162 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was omnibus.

Topics

Patent Act
Private Members’ Business

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his question and for his general interest in this bill.

I cannot underscore enough the importance and quality of Canada's pharmaceutical industry and its capacity to positively contribute to resolving a global problem. Of course there are other suppliers of generic products in other countries, but I have tremendous faith in the capacity of Canada's industry and the quality of its products. We must not forget the importance of competition for reducing prices either.

Patent Act
Private Members’ Business

6:35 p.m.

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.

Motion No. 13
Ways and Means
Private Members’ Business

6:45 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills
Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Minister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I offer the following motion. I move:

That the order for consideration of ways and means Motion No. 13 be deemed read, the motion to concur deemed moved and seconded, the question deemed put and the recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Wednesday, October 17 at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

Motion No. 13
Ways and Means
Private Members’ Business

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Does the hon. government whip have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Motion No. 13
Ways and Means
Private Members’ Business

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motion No. 13
Ways and Means
Private Members’ Business

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Motion No. 13
Ways and Means
Private Members’ Business

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motion No. 13
Ways and Means
Private Members’ Business

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion 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.

Patent Act
Private Members’ Business

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

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.

Patent Act
Private Members’ Business

6:55 p.m.

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.

Patent Act
Private Members’ Business

7:05 p.m.

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.

Patent Act
Private Members’ Business

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Before we resume debate with the hon. member for Guelph, I will just let him know that I will have to interrupt him about four minutes into his remarks. The remaining time will be available to him the next time the House considers the motion. The hon. member for Guelph.

Patent Act
Private Members’ Business

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, from time to time we have an opportunity to discuss an issue that is so fundamentally important that the question of action is not if, but how.

Before us today is a bill that will address the ongoing and terribly destructive crisis with access to medicines in developing and least developed countries across the world. While this bill is not perfect, there is a balance to be struck between maintaining our country's commitment to intellectual property protection while ensuring that we do not build unnecessary barriers limiting access to the medicines that are much needed in developing countries. That is why it is important to get this legislation to committee for closer examination.

We have no excuse for inaction. The House already passed a version of this bill in the last Parliament and the problem is not going away. It has been eight years since the Liberal government of the day put forward a bill that established a legal framework for Canada's access to medicine regime. The bill, otherwise known as Jean Chrétien's pledge to Africa act, was meant to create a balance between addressing our commitment to combat HIV and AIDS and simultaneously honouring intellectual property rights and trade obligations. The bill passed unanimously. Through that legislation, parliamentarians of all stripes signalled that it was a priority that there be timely access to affordable generic versions of patented drugs meant to fight HIV-AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases that are killing thousands of vulnerable men, women and children every day. As an international leader, we could not stand idly by and watch others suffer without trying to help.

It has since become clear that the bill, well-intentioned as it was, proved ineffective in accomplishing its main role. Whether it has been overly complex or onerous or unresponsive to the urgent needs of countries in need, Canada's access to medicines regime has simply not lived up to its intended purpose. That is not to say that we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are solutions and we must move forward to implement them and reach these noble goals.

The bill before us today contains workable solutions to the administrative burdens that have made CAMR frustratingly inaccessible. In fact, we saw this legislation before the last Parliament as Bill C-393, and the House of Commons passed it before it died in the Senate when Parliament was dissolved for a general election.

I remember its passage from the House as one of the proudest moments in my time here, standing with a majority of fellow members, Liberals, NDP, the Bloc and several Conservatives alike saying to the world that we would help. At that time I argued that we could, and I still firmly believe that we can, pass this legislation and prolong lives while preventing the transmission of insidious diseases like HIV-AIDS. We can renew a lease on life for ailing parents, confident in the knowledge that they can live to provide for their loved ones, secure in knowing that they will not transmit the disease to their children. It is not enough to wish it were so, and words certainly will not make it true. Action is necessary. We can act now and finally address this head on.

Mr. Speaker, I will defer to you, understanding that I will have six minutes remaining when called upon again.

Patent Act
Private Members’ Business

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

That is exactly correct. The hon. member for Guelph will have six minutes remaining for his remarks when the House next resumes debate on the question.

The time for consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.