Canadian Parliament Must Fix Flaws in Proposed Drug Patent Legislation, Opinion Piece Says
The "devil is in the details" of a bill being considered by the Canadian Parliament that would change the country's patent laws to allow drug makers to manufacture and export generic versions of patented drugs -- including antiretrovirals -- to developing countries, Richard Elliott, a lawyer for the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and a founding member of the Global Treatment Access Group, writes in a Globe and Mail opinion piece. The bill is problematic because it would include a list of specific medicines covered by the measure and a provision that would bar developing nations from importing the drugs unless they belong to the World Trade Organization, Elliott says, adding that the bill also would bar nongovernmental organizations from contracting directly with Canadian generic companies to purchase discounted drugs. However, the "most serious flaw" in the bill is a provision that would allow patent-holding pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to "scoop" any contract negotiated by a generic company by agreeing to provide the drug to a developing country for a lower price, Elliott says. The provision "undermines any incentive for generic companies to negotiate contracts at all" and removes "any pressure that would bring down prices," Elliott says. The government will "embarrass itself" if it passes the legislation in its "flawed" form and would "betray those people in poor countries it purports to assist," Elliott says. However, the bill "can be easily fixed," Elliott says, asking, "[W]ill Canada squander this opportunity for global leadership, with poor people needing medicines paying the ultimate price?" Or, Elliott concludes, "Will the Prime Minister and the Liberals in Parliament fix the bill so that it delivers on the promise of more affordable medicines for poor countries?" (Elliott, Globe and Mail, 3/31).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.