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.