Canada Should Pass Bill That Would Expedite Export of Low-Cost Drugs for HIV, Other Diseases, Opinion Piece Says
"For many years, countries such as Canada have avoided the uncomfortable truth that millions are dying in the developing world due partly to legal barriers that render access to medicines unaffordable," Michael Geist, chair of Internet and E-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, writes in a Toronto Star opinion piece in response to a recently introduced bill that would reform Canada's Access to Medicines Regime by expediting the process of exporting generic drugs for diseases such as HIV to developing countries. According to Geist, Canada "became an early adopter" of a 2003 World Trade Organization agreement aimed at easing the export of drugs. However, "[s]everal years later, most agree the policy has been a near-total failure," he adds. According to Geist, the law "has only been used once, and the company involved in the process found it so burdensome that it has vowed not to repeat it."
The new bill, introduced by Sen. Yoine Goldstein, "includes important reforms to" Canada's Patent Act, Geist writes, adding that it "would not remove all barriers, but it would help to streamline the process of obtaining the necessary approvals." He adds, "Most importantly, it would establish a 'one-license solution' to enable generic pharmaceutical manufacturers to send shipments of the same medication to multiple countries without needing new approvals for each shipment." In addition, current law allows only governments to "buy medicines on behalf of citizens," Geist writes, concluding that the bill "would make it easier for the many nongovernmental organizations focused on access to medicines to buy and distribute generic medications" (Geist, Toronto Star, 4/13).