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Students Urge Parliament to Make Medicines Affordable Worldwide

With pivotal vote today, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines calls on House of Commons to reform Access to Medicines Regine (CAMR)

March 9, 2011 - Vancouver - University students across Canada are calling on the House of Commons to vote today to ease the export of affordable, life-saving medicines to developing countries. Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, a non-profit organization of medical, law and undergraduate students working to improve global health, supports bill C-393, which would make important fixes to Canada's Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) and comes to a vote in the House of Commons on Wednesday night.

"This is a chance for Canada to help millions of patients in developing countries get the medicines they need to survive," said Aria Ilyad Ahmad, a graduate student in international pharmaceutical policy at the University of Toronto. "That will only happen if the House of Commons fixes our Access to Medicines Regime so it does what it was always supposed to do: help poor nations buy Canadian-made generic drugs at affordable prices, without a lot of red tape."

The Access to Medicines Regime was created to allow developing countries to quickly purchase low-priced generic medicines from Canadian manufacturers and provide them to patients in desperate need. Unfortunately, the legislation's legal complexities have rendered it ineffective in practice. Among other hurdles, separate negotiations are required for each country seeking to purchase a certain generic medicine, and countries are not allowed to increase the quantity of their drug purchase even if the number of patients who need the treatment increases during negotiation.

Among other fixes, bill C-393 would reform CAMR so that a drug can be made available to all countries that need it through a single license-meaning medicines will reach patients in need much faster. NDP Member of Parliament Paul Dewar, a leader in the effort to reform CAMR to increase its effectiveness, is the sponsor of bill C-393. However, the pharmaceutical industry and many MPs continue to fiercely oppose the legislation.

Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM), in cooperation with many civil society organizations, including the HIV/AIDS Legal Network in Canada, is urging all Members of Parliament to support the changes to CAMR contained in bill C-393. "Nearly a third of humanity does not have regular access to essential medicines, and in the poorest parts of Africa and Asia this number rises to over 50%," said Rachel Kiddell-Monroe, President of UAEM's Board of Directors. "Reforming Canada's Access to Medicines Regime would be a truly innovative and important step toward changing that, and would reaffirm Canada's commitment to fighting global diseases. As always, the biggest challenge to reform is simply a matter of courage and political will."

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