Canada Set to Alter Patent Laws to Allow Production, Export of Generic Antiretroviral Drugs
October 2, 2003
Canadian officials and representatives from the country's drug industry have given their support to a plan to alter the country's pharmaceutical drug patent laws to allow the production and exportation of generic antiretroviral drugs, making Canada the first Group of Seven industrialized country to do so, the Wall Street Journal reports (Cherney/Chipello, Wall Street Journal, 10/2). Canadian brand-name drug company lobby group Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies has said that it will work with lawmakers to draft legislation to make generic antiretrovirals available for export from Canada, stating in a press release that the country "has an opportunity to show international leadership" by changing patent laws to improve access to drugs (Scoffield/Knox, Globe and Mail, 10/2). Drafting the legislation likely will involve creating a list of specific patented treatments that can be produced by generic drug makers for a specific group of countries, according to an official familiar with the process. It is unknown how long the process will take, the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 10/2). However, Canada's ruling Liberal Party and several opposition parties have said that they are willing to "fast-track" the legislation through Parliament, Reuters reports (Sekhri, Reuters, 10/1). In addition to the cabinet and the pharmaceutical industry, Paul Martin, the recently elected leader of the country's Liberal Party who is expected to become the Canadian prime minister when current Prime Minister Jean Chretien resigns, on Tuesday gave his support to the legislation, Toronto's Globe and Mail reports. The measure also has the support of several United Nations' groups, world health advocacy groups and HIV/AIDS groups (Globe and Mail, 10/2).
Drug Industry Concern
U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis said that he "hope[s] Canada's initiative may stimulate other G7 countries" to alter their patent laws to allow generic drug production and exportation (Wall Street Journal, 10/2). Lewis last week called on the G7 nations -- the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada -- to adopt new strategies to allow the production and distribution of generic antiretroviral drugs to African countries hit hard by the AIDS epidemic. Lewis, who is Canadian, specifically called on Canada to take the lead, saying that its large generic drug industry and Chretien's decision to make HIV/AIDS a foreign policy priority make the country a prime candidate for supplying the drugs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/26). Carol Bellamy, executive director of UNICEF, said that the Canadian government's actions are a "path-breaking step in the fight against AIDS" that will "expand overall availability of antiretrovirals in poor countries" (Panafrican News Agency, 10/1). South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign and AIDS Law Project said in a joint release, "We strongly believe that if properly implemented, this brave step will make a significant contribution towards ensuring a sustainable supply of affordable essential medicines in the developing world" (TAC/ALP release, 10/1). Richard Elliott, director of policy and research for the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, said that the patent law changes should include medicines for conditions other than HIV/AIDS, adding, "We can't deny affordable medicine to people because their disease or their health condition is not on the approved list of the Canadian government" (Globe and Mail, 10/2).
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.