CANADA FINALLY POISED TO DELIVER ON PROMISE OF
AFFORDABLE MEDICINES TO DEVELOPING COUNTRIES?
But law must be streamlined to ensure it will be used again
Toronto, May 7, 2008 - The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network welcomed today's
announcement that Rwanda's Government, after a competitive tendering process, has
chosen to purchase a low-cost AIDS drug from Ontario-based generic pharmaceutical
manufacturer Apotex, Inc. - meaning that Canada's Access to Medicines Regime
should soon deliver for the first time on its promise of affordable medicines for
However, this represents the first success in four years since the law on exporting
generic medicines was passed, confirming that the Regime must be simplified if Canada
is to play an ongoing role in helping developing countries with access to AIDS treatment
or other medicines they need.
"This is great news, and we hope supplies will start moving soon. But Canada's law is
riddled with unnecessary hurdles," said Richard Elliott, Executive Director of the Legal
Network. "Getting this far has required an extraordinary amount of work by one
company and various non-governmental organizations. This is not sustainable. How
many lives could have been saved in the meantime if this law had worked smoothly the
way it should and could?"
Last year, the Legal Network presented the government and Parliament with a
submission containing 13 concrete amendments they could pass immediately in order
to make the law truly workable. But in December of last year, the Minister of Industry
tabled a long-overdue report in Parliament indicating the government had no plans to
make any changes.
"We did their homework for them," said Elliott, "but so far the government has refused to
act. What we need is a straightforward system that is user-friendly for both developing
countries and for generic manufacturers in Canada. Instead of requiring separate
negotiations and a separate licence for each country and each order of medicines, we
need a simple 'one-licence solution' such as the one we've proposed."
Based on an agreement hammered out at the WTO in 2003, Canada's Access to
Medicines Regime was created by legislation passed unanimously in Parliament in May
2004. It is meant to allow compulsory licensing of patented medicines, so that generic
drug companies in Canada can legally produce and export lower-cost versions of
patented, brand-name medicines to developing countries. The deal between the
Rwandan Government and Apotex, Inc. marks the first use anywhere in the world of this
For more information on the Legal Network's proposed amendments to the legislation,
see "Getting the Regime Right", the 2007 brief to Parliament, available at
- 30 -
For more information, please contact:
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Telephone: +1 416 595-1666 ext. 227