Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-398, An Act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes), which would amend Canada's access to medicines regime. In considering how I will vote on this bill and my approach moving forward, I will be clear that no one is more to the front my mind than the people in the developing world who need drugs and help.
While the spirit and intentions of this bill are laudable, the proposed amendments would not achieve their intended effects and would prove costly to our economy and damage our credibility in the world. The case for Bill C-398 rests on a few basic myths.
The first myth is that the Canadian access to medicines regime does not work. In fact, Canada is the only country in the world to have used this kind of regime to export medicines. In 2007, it took the Canadian government only 15 days to issue a licence, resulting in the shipment of nearly 16 million tablets to Rwanda for the treatment of HIV-AIDS.
A second myth is that Bill C-398 will save lives. This bill would in fact do nothing to save lives or deliver a larger quantity of essential medicines to developing countries in need. Rather, Canada's approach in funding medicines for those who need them most is saving lives and will continue to do so.
These amendments will not change the economics of drug supply. Less costly alternatives will always be available from emerging markets. Canada is not and will never be a low-cost producer, such as India or other emerging economies. India supplies over 80% of donor-funded antiretrovirals to developing countries.
This is not only about one country. Brazil, Thailand and South Africa also produce a significant amount of affordable medicines. We should not be surprised that even after CAMR was requested and used successfully to send medicines to Rwanda, that country soon found a more affordable alternative source in India.
The bill also ignores what the World Health Organization's panel of independent medical experts from the developed and developing world have said. Over 98% of the medicines on the World Health Organization's list of essential medicines are either generic or not patent protected in the developing world.
Developing countries are telling us that patent protection is not the issue. Despite some improvements in public health, the real challenge facing them is a lack of resources, which is yet another reason they always go for the most affordable source, which will always be the emerging markets.
Canada is addressing the real issue of resources by delivering aid to fight serious public health problems, such as HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Our government's plan to fight disease and deprivation is delivering results through our leadership on key global initiatives. Canada has been a leader in supporting the global fund to fight HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. This fund has become one of the most important instruments for countries in need to access lower cost medicines. In 2010, our government pledged $540 million to the global fund, bringing Canada's total commitment to more than $1.4 billion.
Through the global fund, 3.6 million people living with HIV-AIDS currently receive treatment and 1.5 million HIV positive pregnant women receive treatment to prevent mother to child transmission. According to the global fund, Canada is the top contributor on a per capita basis.
Canada has also pledged $149.6 million to the Stop TB Partnership's global drug facility to procure quality assured anti-tuberculosis drugs. Since shipments began in 2009, the number of people receiving modern TB treatment has increased from 32% to 61% of estimated sufferers.
We have pledged $450 million over 10 years to the Africa health systems initiative towards strengthening health systems to ensure that facilities and expertise are in place to make effective use of the medicines we deliver.
Canada has also provided $2.85 billion to champion the Muskoka initiative on maternal, newborn and child health. Through the Muskoka initiative, Canada has taken action to support the provision of medicines, vaccines and the other actions needed to prevent and treat diseases that are the main causes of maternal and child mortality. In Afghanistan, we have trained more than 1,455 health workers. In Mozambique, we have increased the number of women giving birth in health facilities to 64%. In Tanzania, we have provided primary health care services to more than 43 million people.
These and other Canadian-led efforts are yielding positive outcomes. According to the joint United Nations program on HIV-AIDS and the World Health Organization, an estimated 8 million people living with HIV in low and middle-income countries were receiving antiretroviral therapy at the end of 2011. That is a 25-fold increase over the last decade, and I do not want that number to be skipped over.
According to the World Health Organization, the number of people receiving proper treatment for tuberculosis has almost quadrupled, from 1.9 million in 2000 to 7.7 million in 2010, and the incidence rates are declining worldwide.
We have a proven track record and we will not rest while millions suffer in the developing world.
A third myth is that Bill C-398 would comply with our international obligations. However, it would clearly remove the central protections in our laws. Canadian jobs are at stake as we become less attractive for trade and innovation and lose access to vital international research partnerships that lead to the development of lifesaving medicines in Canada.
The bill would remove the notification requirement, the quantity requirement on licence when issued, the requirement to name the recipient country and application and the eligibility requirements for countries that could use CAMR. All of these would violate our international obligations. There is even a risk of diversion of medicines into the wrong hands rather than go to people in countries who truly need them.
Bill C-398 would also have unintended consequences of creating delays in shipments by introducing more discretion into the regime. Currently, if an application, one, identifies a listed drug and country, two, includes the WTO notification and three, provides information about the relevant patents, the Commissioner of Patents has no choice but to grant the licences. The proposals in Bill C-398 would require the commissioner to exercise discretion regarding eligibility. This could introduce delay and an opportunity for patent holders to challenge the licence in court. Why would we add red tape to the system?
Canada's approach is addressing the real problem by leading global initiatives to provide medicines against HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria for those in need. The bill would not deliver more lifesaving medicines. Instead, it would harm our economy and our trade and research partnerships.
It is for these reasons that I urge all hon. members of Parliament not to support Bill C-398, but instead to focus on the many things that Canada is doing that are making a real impact on the lives of the people around the world who most need it.