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.