U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Calls on Canada To Enact Law Allowing Export of Generic Antiretroviral Drugs
U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis has called on Canada to enact a law allowing pharmaceutical companies to manufacture and export generic antiretroviral drugs to developing countries, Toronto's Globe and Mail reports (Chase, Globe and Mail, 11/25). The Canadian Senate in May approved Bill C-9, which amended 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/13). Lewis said that the Canadian government "risks embarrassment" if the law is not enacted, according to the Globe and Mail. "I am deeply concerned, and I am very disappointed at the lack of movement on C-9," Lewis said. The law has not been enacted, and supporting regulations are still being drafted, therefore no antiretrovirals have been exported under the law, according to the Globe and Mail.
Some generic drug manufacturers are "balking" at the details of the law, saying that it "makes it onerous and costly to copy and export drugs," according to the Globe and Mail (Globe and Mail, 11/25). Jeff Connell, a spokesperson for the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association, said there are not enough financial incentives for generic companies to participate, according to Inter Press Service. Connell said that generic firms will need three to five years to develop generic versions of patented medications. However, under the law, generic companies are only given four years to sell the drugs to countries in need, which is "inadequate time to earn a fair return," according to Connell. Lewis said he is not convinced that generic drug firms will lose money from exporting drugs under the law, but he said that companies might have to "adjust their manufacturing process and expand industrial capacity to meet the demand" for the medications, according to Inter Press Service. "Everybody is apprehensive; everybody isn't sure how things will work or whether they can work," Lewis said, adding, "Somebody has to have the courage to test it. Governments have to encourage that test, and the generics have to be willing to undertake it" (Weinberg, Inter Press Service, 11/26). Ian Jack, spokesperson for Canadian Industry Minister David Emerson, said, "Stephen Lewis [is] an eminent humanitarian, and we take his views seriously," adding, "(But) the bill hasn't even come into force yet, so it's too early to say that it's not going to work or that we need additional measures" (Globe and Mail, 11/25).