HEALTH AND LEGAL EXPERTS JOIN CANADIAN AND AFRICAN
ACTIVISTS IN MAKING CASE TO FIX ACCESS TO MEDICINES REGIME
Industry Committee finally set to review bill that could save thousands of lives
OTTAWA, October 21, 2010 - Supporters of legislation to reform Canada's Access to
Medicines Regime will be seeking to underscore facts and dispel myths in testimony
today before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology reviewing Bill
C-393. With almost a year having passed since Parliament voted in favour of the bill at
second reading, efforts to fix CAMR to make it work the way it was intended have
reached a critical juncture.
"We look forward to making a factual case to Committee as to why CAMR is broken and
how it can now be fixed to ensure life-saving medicines get to the people who need them
in developing countries," says Richard Elliott, Executive Director of the Canadian
HIV/AIDS Legal Network, appearing before the Committee today. "Reforming CAMR will
save thousands of lives - that's a lot of reasons to do the right thing. It's time for
parliamentarians to listen to the facts and look beyond the misinformation they're
receiving those who oppose positive change. It's time to step up."
In 2004, Parliament passed a bill called the Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa, creating
CAMR to make it easier for developing countries to get lower-cost generic medicines to
treat public health problems, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. However, in
more than 6 years, CAMR has only been used once, to send one order of one medicine
to a single country (Rwanda). The generic drug manufacturer that supplied the medicine
has indicated it will not go through the cumbersome process again - but has also
committed to using the system again if it's simplified, including to export a child-friendly
Bill C-393 would streamline CAMR with a simplified 'one-licence solution', at no cost to
taxpayers. This approach would eliminate the current requirement for separate
negotiations with patent-holding pharmaceutical companies for each purchasing country
and each order of medicines, and instead provide a more workable process to get
affordable, generic medicines to people in developing countries.
A streamlined CAMR has the support of dozens of academic and civil society
organizations, many prominent Canadian public figures, and, according to a poll by
opinion research firm Pollara, 80 percent of Canadians.
The Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign has also mobilized in support of African
grandmothers bearing the burdens of the AIDS epidemic, including caring for children
living with or orphaned by the disease. The group has circulated a petition signed by over
32,000 Canadians calling on Parliament to reform CAMR. Some 10,000 postcards have
been signed to the Parliamentary committee now studying Bill C-393, and thousands
more have been sent to individual MPs in all parts of the country. The Grandmothers to
Grandmothers Campaign will appear before the Industry committee next week (Tuesday,
"Every day counts for people who are dying without the affordable medicines they need to
survive," says Elizabeth Rennie on behalf of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers
Campaign. "Half of all children with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa die before the age of two
because they don't have access to affordable, practicable medicines suited for children.
We are calling on parliamentarians to address this desperate public health and human
rights tragedy by streamlining CAMR to make it workable."
A backgrounder that addresses the most common myths associated with CAMR and Bill
C-393 follows. Further background on the issue and the Legal Network can be found at
www.aidslaw.ca/camr. More information about the Grandmothers to Grandmothers
campaign can be found at www.grandmotherscampaign.org.
About the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Since 1992, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network ( www.aidslaw.ca ) has been promoting
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.
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
+1 416 898-3313, email@example.com
Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign
+1 905 634-5609
Principal, Empower Consulting for the Legal Network
+1 416 996-0767,
Backgrounder on Bill C-393: Dispelling Myths with Facts
MYTH: Bill C-393's amendments would violate Canada's obligations under the WTO
treaty on intellectual property rights.
FACT: Detailed analyses, including by one of the world's leading legal experts on the
subject testifying before a similar bill previously in front of the Senate, have shown that
this is not correct. Every WTO member country, including Canada, has repeatedly
agreed that issuing compulsory licences on patented medicines to enable exports of
lower-priced, generic medicines to developing countries is entirely consistent with WTO
rules. This is the very purpose of CAMR, which Parliament created. Bill C-393 simply
tries to eliminate the unnecessary bureaucratic impediments to using the system, so that
the licensing system is simple and flexible in order to address the evolving needs of
MYTH: Streamlining CAMR would undermine incentives for brand-name pharmaceutical
companies to research and develop new medicines.
FACT: This claim makes no sense. CAMR only allows compulsory licensing for the
purpose of exporting lower-cost generic medicines to eligible countries. Those countries
represent a small percentage of total global pharmaceutical sales and the profits of brandname
companies. For example, the entire continent of Africa, the hardest hit by the AIDS
pandemic, represents less than 2 percent of global pharmaceutical sales. Developing
country markets do not drive pharmaceutical companies' decisions about investments in
research and development (R&D). Furthermore, the brand-name drug companies are
entitled to receive royalties on sales of generic medicines supplied under CAMR, and Bill
C-393 does not change this. Exports to high-income countries, in which brand-name
pharmaceutical companies make the vast majority of their profits and on which they base
their decisions about R&D, are not authorized by CAMR - and Bill C-393 does not
change this. The countries that would benefit from a streamlined CAMR are those that all
countries at the WTO already agreed upon, and that CAMR is already supposed to
MYTH: Canadian generic manufacturers will not be able to supply medicines at prices
competitive with generic manufacturers elsewhere, such as India.
FACT: In the one case to date in which CAMR has been used, the Canadian generic
drug company supplied the medicine to Rwanda at the same price being offered by Indian
generic manufacturers and won the contract through this competitive bidding process.
Furthermore, the simpler and less costly it is for developing countries and generic
manufacturers to use CAMR to supply multiple developing countries under a single
licence, the greater economies of scale and the lower the costs of production that can be
achieved by generic manufacturers in Canada. This ultimately benefits purchasing
countries and patients in those countries by lowering further the prices of medicines
supplied under CAMR.
MYTH: The barrier to greater access is not the prices of medicines but rather widespread
poverty and inadequate health systems.
FACT: There are multiple barriers to access to medicines in the developing world, which
vary from country to country and even within a given country. But major progress has
been made in increasing access to treatment, including by strengthening health systems,
and there is no disputing that the price of medicines prevents many patients with HIV or
numerous other conditions from accessing life-saving treatments. Prices are higher when
medicines are only available from brand-name pharmaceutical companies that hold
patents on those medicines (i.e., monopolies). All the clinics, doctors and nurses in the
world won't be able to help patients if medicines are priced out of reach. Streamlining
CAMR could effectively assist developing countries in overcoming one of the major
barriers to affordable treatment. The lower the prices of medicines, the more people can
be treated with a limited amount of resources. This also means more resources are
made available to invest in strengthening health systems. More affordable medicines and
stronger health systems are complementary actions that should be taken together. To pit
one against the other, as some politicians and pharmaceutical companies are doing, is
misleading and misguided.
MYTH: Brand-name pharmaceutical companies voluntarily gave licences to Apotex to
supply the three-in-one AIDS drug that was sent to Rwanda.
FACT: This claim is simply not true. It's also inconsistent with the claim by brand-name
companies that the process of Apotex getting a compulsory license to supply Rwanda
was fast and straightforward. If there had been voluntary licence agreement between
Apotex and the brand-name companies, there obviously would have been no need for
Apotex to apply for a compulsory licence. The fact is, there was no agreement on
voluntary licences. Apotex ultimately filed an application for a compulsory licence, which
is the purpose of CAMR.
MYTH: CAMR worked quickly once the first application for a compulsory licence was
made, and therefore there are no delays or impediments in CAMR.
FACT: It is true that once the first application for a licence was filed, it was issued
reasonably quickly. But this is not where the problem lies with the CAMR process. It is
not correct that it only took 68 days from start to finish of the process, as claimed by
brand-name pharmaceutical companies and some politicians. This claim ignores more
than a year of lost time attempting to negotiate for a voluntary licence when the brandname
companies would not agree to any licence without a specific developing country
being identified. Because no country was willing to come forward, the licensing process
was stuck in limbo and exporting medicines was stalled. Bill C-393's "one-licence
solution" would avoid this hurdle: it would not limit a compulsory licence to authorizing the
supply of generic medicines to just one specific country, but would instead authorize
supply to any of the eligible developing countries already covered by CAMR as the
intended recipients of this initiative.
Reproduced with permission - "Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network"
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network