Canadian House of Commons Unanimously Approves Bill To Allow Manufacture of Generic AIDS, Other Drugs for Africa
Canada's House of Commons on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill (C-9) that would amend the country's patent laws to permit the government to order the override of patents to allow certain pharmaceutical manufacturers to produce and export generic drugs -- including antiretroviral drugs -- for use in developing countries, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/4). Under the measure -- which originally was introduced in the House of Commons in November 2003 -- about 50 countries would be eligible to receive generic drugs at a fraction of the prices charged in Canada. The bill also calls for special markings on and packaging for the generic drugs sold as part of the program to prevent them from being sold on the black market or reimported to Canada. In addition, the bill would require the creation of lists detailing which drugs could be imported by which countries (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/21). Canada's Senate, which is its upper house of Parliament, is expected to approve the measure later this week, according to AFP/Miami Herald (AFP/Miami Herald, 5/5).
Member of Parliament Brian Masse said that requiring a list of drugs would delay the inclusion of new therapies in the generic drug program while regulators "debate the merits of each drug," according to the Ottawa Citizen. Masse had fought to include Bayer's pneumonia drug moxifloxacin in the list of medicines approved for generic distribution. According to Masse, the drug may be used to treat patients with AIDS-related pneumonia or tuberculosis, the Citizen reports. However, the drug list in the final version of the bill does not include the moxifloxacin. Masse said that the omission shows that the legislation is susceptible to lobbying efforts from pharmaceutical companies, adding, "If they can be this bold about removing a drug in a bill that's being developed, what's going to happen in the future? It's basically going to be Big Pharma selecting what drugs are going to be available." Bayer Canada Vice President Doug Grant said there was no need for moxifloxacin to included because the list already contains other effective pneumonia drugs. In addition, Grant said until the drug is approved by an expert review panel for the treatment of TB or HIV, "it should not be included on the list" (McGregor, Ottawa Citizen, 5/4).