Mr. Speaker, I was remiss. I could not count the time yesterday, so I did not have an opportunity to finish what I had said in the House.
I was going to ask the indulgence of the House to at least consider modernizing our thoughts on what the bill really means. I think we all agree that the bill is about ensuring it would comply with the WTO, but there is an opportunity to make it more than that.
Since I had an opportunity to intervene on this yesterday, a significant landmark ruling occurred in the United States with respect to the automatic injunction provision for Canada and the United States. I point out to members, Conservative, Bloc, Alliance and of course Liberals and New Democrats, that the automatic injunction gives a de facto extension of patent protection beyond 20 years.
I see the hon. member from the Conservative Party shaking his head saying no. Let me summarize what his senators said in the Senate just two months ago as they looked at Bill S-17. It states as follows:
In general, it is the Committee's view that courts are fully capable of determining appropriate procedures, which should not differ substantially from one industry to another. Regulatory interference carries a risk that an unfair advantage may inadvertently be provided to one side or the other.
My concern therefore is well-founded, not only on the wisdom of the Senate of the other place, but also in the landmark ruling of the U.S. federal court yesterday on the question of patent infringement, bearing in mind there are only two countries that have it.
Patent infringement claims were made by AstraZeneca PLC, Europe's largest drug maker, with respect to a product known as Prilosac, the largest selling drug item in the United States of America and in Canada. In Canada the drug is known as Losec. The same issue occurred here where the same individuals tried to stall this very important product beyond the patent protection period. It is very clear, with sales of $340 million a month, why the drug industry wants to maintain its stranglehold even beyond the agreed 20 years.
Members, especially in the Conservative Party, I think fail to understand that what they are giving licence to here in regulation is well beyond anything that was intended by this parliament. They can go back and talk about what happened 10 or 15 years ago, but I think the people are asking us to address the current problem for which there is no obligation for Canada to go beyond the 20th year. The effect of this is not only a means of destroying due process, but it is disrespectful of the courts of this country. It confers a privilege that is available nowhere else in this country.
The reality is we have a situation that we must knock out. It is called the automatic injunction. My belief is, and I think the belief of those who have looked at this, that there was an opportunity to deal with this. Unfortunately, I would ask the hon. members to consider the millions of dollars that it is costing the provincial drug plans of their Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic governments across the country.
More importantly, there are a few issues that have come up as a result of the comments made by the member for New Brunswick Southwest. I will not answer all of them, but it is important for us to also consider the flawed and false methodologies of the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board of Canada. To suggest that $900 million in research and development should justify these extended patents is simply wrong. More than half that money is nothing more than advertising. There is a push today to make sure that people get even more advertising from these drug companies to create the kind of chaos we see in the United States.
I was trying to intervene the member for New Brunswick Southwest on the fundamental question he raised with respect to the price difference between Canada and the United States. It is very clear to me that the only difference between Canadian new drugs and drugs being brought in from the United States is the 40% exchange rate. We do not even have a brand name manufacturer giving us the courtesy of establishing a head office here in Canada to give us the kind of benefits we normally see. Instead, we see ourselves in a situation where we are paying the highest prices in the world without the privilege of having anything more than a few warehouses on the island in Montreal and in Mississauga.
I would like to point out to the hon. members, certainly in the Conservative Party, but others who lost the opportunity and did not see it, there is a chance to change this.
Finally, let us deal with the issue of AIDS in South Africa. There is an opportunity here for us to return to compulsory licensing. I ask the indulgence of members of parliament to consider that. There is a pandemic occurring in the world and it is very clear that the brand name manufacturers have egg on their faces because they are more willing to be concerned about what goes in their pockets as opposed to helping the people who are dying and suffering and where an entire civilization is breaking down.
Hon. members wake up on this one. I urge and implore all members to get together and protect the health care system in the country. We have three months to get it together.