RWANDA FIRST TO TRY BUYING AFFORDABLE AIDS DRUG FROM
CANADA USING ACCESS TO MEDICINES REGIME
Legal Network welcomes news, but warns flaws in law still need to be fixed
TORONTO, July 20, 2007 - The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network was
cautiously optimistic today in welcoming news that Rwanda will be the first
developing country to attempt using Canada's Access to Medicines Regime to
purchase an affordable AIDS drug from Canada.
Yesterday, Rwanda notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) of its intention
to import 260 000 packs of Apo-Triavir from Canada over the next two years.
Apo-Triavir is a generic drug manufactured by Ontario-based Apotex Inc. It
combines three patented brand-name drugs: zidovudine, lamivudine and
nevirapine. The notification by Rwanda is the first step for Apotex to get a licence
that will allow it to produce and export this medicine.
"This is the closest we've come so far to seeing the Regime achieve what it's
meant to do," said Richard Elliott, Deputy Director of the Legal Network. "But
even if Rwanda and Apotex are successful in getting this order through,
Parliament still needs to streamline the Regime to ensure that this isn't the only
time we'll see the Regime used."
Originally passed in May 2004 as the Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa, the Regime
was intended to allow generic drug companies in Canada to produce and export
much-needed lower-cost versions of brand-name drugs to developing countries.
To date, however, not a single pill has left Canada.
Since then, in numerous letters and briefs, the Legal Network has repeatedly
urged Cabinet ministers and members of Parliament to deal quickly and
effectively with this problem, and outlined specific steps to help solve it.
The most recent brief, submitted in April 2007 to the House of Commons
Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, included 13
recommendations, the cornerstone of which is a proposal to authorize any pharmaceutical firm to produce generic versions of any drug patented in Canada
for export to any eligible developing country listed in the law.
"Parliament created the Regime over three years ago. It's taken all that time just
to get this point, not because the drugs aren't needed or don't exist, but in large
part because the Regime is too complicated to work as well as it could," said
Elliott. "This single application is just a drop in the bucket to meeting the
desperate need for affordable medicines. Parliament needs to fix the law to
benefit more than just one country."
About the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (www.aidslaw.ca) promotes the human
rights of people living with and vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, in Canada and
internationally, through research, legal and policy analysis, education, and
community mobilization. The Legal Network is Canada's leading advocacy
organization working on the legal and human rights issues raised by HIV/AIDS.
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For more information, please contact:
Director of Communications
Mobile: +1 416 278-3750
Telephone: +1 416 595-1666 ext. 228