Mr. Speaker, every day, over 16,000 lives are lost in the world to HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and other treatable infectious diseases, according to the Global Fund.
In 2009, 33.3 million people around the world were living with HIV-AIDS, 1.8 million of them died from the infection and 260,000 of those people were children. Ninety-seven percent of people infected with HIV-AIDS live in low to middle wealth countries, and while almost 15 million infected in these countries were in need of antiviral drugs, only 5.2 million were treated.
I am pleased to speak to Bill C-393, which would fix key flaws in Canada's Access to Medicine Regime, CAMR. I have eagerly been awaiting this opportunity because Bill C-393 is a bill that I talk about a lot with my constituents in Halifax. I get letters and phone calls about CAMR. I have been to events around Nova Scotia, like the grandmothers' event, Good Words for Africa-A Scrabble Afternoon, which is a scrabble fundraiser to raise money for HIV-AIDS and to raise awareness of Bill C-393.
I get postcards from the grandmothers to grandmothers campaign. I have received letters from the HIV-AIDS Legal Network. I am a member of the all party HIV-AIDS and TB caucus, or the HAT caucus, where I have listened to Stephen Lewis and James Orbinski talk about Bill C-393. I have received Facebook messages and tweets. I have been stopped on the streets. I have talked to students, doctors, community activists, retired politicians, health policy experts and grandmother after grandmother about this legislation. They have all said the same thing, which is to support Bill C-393 in its original form.
One letter I received was from the international NGO, OXFAM. I would like to read this letter to my colleagues in the House because it effectively communicates everything we need to know about this bill. It reads:
Dear Member of Parliament,
You have an amazing opportunity right 2at would save lives around the world, without costing Canadian taxpayers a dime.
In many places in the world, countless people are dying every day of AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and a host of other diseases.
But these deaths are preventable. What these countries need is access to generic medications.
The good news is: The political will exists to ensure this access. In 2004, Parliament unanimously passed legislation creating Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR).
The bad news is: CAMR is broken.
As the legislation functions now, generic drug manufacturers are required to negotiate with patent holders on a country-by-country and drug-by-drug basis, before they are able to distribute affordable life saving medicines. Due to this complexity and difficulty of use, CAMR has been deemed unworkable in its present form.
In more than six years, CAMR has resulted in only one order of one AIDS drug to one country.
But wait! There is more good news: Bill C-393--in its original form--would solve this problem. It contains a one-licence-solution, which would eliminate the need for separate negotiations with patent-holders for each purchasing country and each order of medicines. It would provide a more workable process to get affordable medicines for people in developing countries. And it would do all of this while meeting every one of Canada’s international legal obligations, including WTO rules.
Please commit to voting to restore the “one-licence” solution to Bill C-393.
You will be directly responsible for saving lives.
As I said, this is a letter that many of my colleagues in the House would have received from OXFAM. It does not get any simpler than that. As members of Parliament, as representatives of our communities, we could be directly responsible for saving lives. Or, we could all be implicated in Canada's refusal to help and watch by the sidelines as more and more people die. It is up to each and every one of us in this House to make a decision about what side of this issue we are on.
CAMR is not working now but reforms can make it work. As we have heard, CAMR has only delivered one medicine to one country since Parliament created it more than six years ago. There is no expectation that CAMR will be used again, unless it gets fixed.
Médecins sans frontières, Doctors Without Borders, testified before committee that it tried for months to make use of CAMR to get medicines for patients but, ultimately, it abandoned this effort because of unnecessary hurdles in the law. Only one generic drug manufacturer has been willing to use CAMR and said that it would not try this process again. However, it has publicly committed to using the system again if it were simplified to make a version of an AIDS drug that is needed to treat children with HIV, a drug that is not currently available from any other source.
Streamlining CAMR does not jeopardize pharmaceutical research and development, including here in Canada. CAMR only authorizes exports of generic versions of patented medicines to certain eligible countries and these countries were already agreed upon by Canada and all WTO members in 2003 and are already reflected in the current CAMR as it was created by Parliament in 2004.
These countries represent a very small portion of the total global pharmaceutical sales and profits of brand name pharmaceutical companies. Further, the brand name drug companies are entitled to receive royalties on sales of generic medicines supplied to these countries under CAMR.
Bill C-393's proposed reforms offer value for money for Canadians. These changes cost taxpayers nothing. In fact, Bill C-393's one-licence solution would make Canadian foreign aid more effective because limited resources could be used to purchase more medicines and would also free up scarce resources to invest in making health systems stronger. Scaling up access to treatment also means greater opportunities for producing and distributing good quality, Canadian-made generic medicines, meaning more business and more jobs in addressing a pressing global health need.
We are here today debating amendments that I have introduced at report stage. We have had to introduce these amendments because Conservative and Liberal members of the industry committee worked together to strip some of the most critical aspects from the CAMR legislation, like the one-licence solution.
We have heard criticism about this bill and we are willing to compromise. We are willing to work with parties to reach across the House and work together to ensure this important legislation passes. We have brought forward only two amendments in an effort to make Parliament work and get this legislation passed.
However, at the core of Bill C-393 is and should continue to be the one-licence solution. This approach would eliminate CAMR's current requirement for separate negotiations with patent-holding pharmaceutical companies for individual licences for each country and each order of medicines.
It would also remove the requirement to determine and disclose in advance of even being able to apply for a licence to export a single recipient country and a fixed maximum quantity of medicines. These unnecessary requirements have been proven to be the major stumbling blocks to the use of CAMR. The one-licence solution was removed by committee by a slim majority when it deleted clause 4 of Bill C-393 in spite of the fact that it had clear support at second reading.
Canadians want Parliament to take action on the Canadian access to medicines regime. According to a national poll, 80% of Canadians support reforming Canada's Access to Medicines Regime to make it more workable so that we can help developing countries get access to affordable and life-saving medicines. Dozens of prominent Canadians have come on board to say that this is the way we should be moving, including the former prime minister whose government enacted CAMR.
In honour of World AIDS Day, a group of prominent Canadians wrote a letter to members of Parliament asking them to support Bill C-393. Some of the signatories to this letter included: the right hon. Paul Martin, the former prime minister of Canada; Janice Alton, national co-chair, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace; Richard Bedell, medical advisor for Dignitas; Nigel Fisher, president and CEO of UNICEF; Robert Fox, executive director of Oxfam; Michael Geist, Canada Research chair of Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa; Karen Kain, artistic director at the National Ballet of Canada; Alexa McDonough, former member of Parliament; Steve Morgan, researcher at the University of British Columbia; and David Suzuki, Companion of the Order of Canada. As members can see, there are pages and pages of signatories.
Canadians want this legislation to pass and they want all parliamentarians to work together to ensure it passes. I hope every member will stand and vote for these amendments and support Bill C-393.