MP Hélène Laverdière

On Wednesday, November 28, the Canadian Parliament will vote on Bill C-398, legislation to reform the Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR).  This is the law that was passed in 2004 to allow generic firms in Canada to export medicines produced under compulsory license to developing countries.  CAMR establishes a framework that complies with the WTO’s  amendments to the TRIPS Agreement regarding compulsory licenses for drugs not meant primarily for domestic markets. However, the framework has proved too cumbersome for practical application – only one shipment of drugs has ever resulted from a generic firm using the CAMR system.

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network explains the change in the legislation: “The ‘one-licence solution’ is at the heart of the reforms needed to fix CAMR. Instead of its current country-by-country, order-by-order process of compulsory licensing, a reformed CAMR would require only one licence on a patented pharmaceutical product. The one-licence solution would enable a generic drug company to get a single licence allowing a medicine to be exported to a pre-approved developing country, and to supply quantities of this medicine over time and as needs evolve — without having to start the process over every single time. This solution would cut through the red tape and finally make CAMR workable so that developing countries can effectively use the law to obtain life-saving medicines from Canada.”

Bill C-398 was sponsored by Hélène Laverdière. In the recent debate on the bill, she described the wide support for the bill:

Bill C-398 has the support of more than 80 international NGOs, including Médecins sans Frontières, Apostolic Faith Mission in Lesotho, the Church of Scotland, and the U.K.’s Stop AIDS Campaign. Within Canada, there are over 250 NGOs and community groups in support of this, including World Vision, Results Canada, AQOCI, Care Canada, UNICEF, Oxfam, and organizations, such as the City of Prince Albert and the HIV Network of Edmonton. We have the support of faith leaders across the country.

We know that generic manufacturers support this bill, and they are ready to provide a one-dose AIDS medication for children should this bill become law. Importantly, the brand name pharmaceutical companies of Canada have written to us to say that they do not oppose this legislation.

The Globe and Mail quotes letters from both the brand name firms and generic firms to Parliament regarding the bill.  The Canadian pharmaceutical trade association “will not oppose the amendments proposed in Bill C-398” as long as it complies with WTO rules.  Jack Kay, CEO of generics firm Apoltex urges Parliamentarians to “consider some simple, fundamental changes to the existing CAMR that would immediately make it more workable and attractive for a company like Apotex to utilize in a sustainable manner.”