Canada’s Plan To Alter Patent Laws To Allow Generic AIDS Drug Production More Complex Than Anticipated, Officials Say
Canada's plan to alter the country's drug patent laws to allow the manufacture and export of generic antiretroviral drugs to developing countries is "proving problematic, as the complexity of the issues involved weigh on those drafting the legislation," Toronto's Globe and Mail reports (Fagan, Globe and Mail, 10/24). Canadian officials and representatives from the country's drug industry have given their support to a plan allowed under a recently reached World Trade Organization agreement to alter the country's pharmaceutical drug patent laws to allow the production and exportation of generic drugs. Canada would be the first Group of Seven industrialized country to change its patent laws in order to help developing countries that need access to the medications (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/22). Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham, Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew and Industry Minister Allan Rock, along with other ministry representatives, met on Wednesday to discuss a strategy for "moving forward" with the proposal, in part because Prime Minister Jean Chretien may decide to discontinue the current session of the House of Commons in two weeks to prepare for his retirement, the Globe and Mail reports. Some lawmakers have expressed concern that two weeks "would simply not be enough time" to introduce and pass legislation, according to the Globe and Mail. Although Chretien's successor, Paul Martin, has demonstrated support for the plan, the ministers have other options, including a discussion paper or a non-binding resolution that would "signal [the government's] intention to move as soon as possible" if the legislation is not passed under Chretien, the Globe and Mail reports.
Originally, Canadian officials believed that changing the patent laws would only involve making amendments to the country's Patent Act, but instead "myriad regulations" will have to be established and a "complex" law under the purview of Health Canada will also have to be altered, the Globe and Mail reports. An unnamed senior government official said, "It's not a question of not wanting to do it. It's a question of, 'Oh my God, it's so complicated,'" adding, "You gotta get it right." In addition to the support of the Canadian government, the country's brand-name drug industry is maintaining its support of the plan, according to the Globe and Mail. But some pharmaceutical company officials said that their support could be "at risk" if regulations are not prepared at the same time as the legislation or if the drug industry is "not satisfied" with the regulations, the Globe and Mail reports (Globe and Mail, 10/24).