Canada: Martin Backs Plan for Generic AIDS Drugs
October 1, 2003
Yesterday, Paul Martin, who is set to become Canada's next prime minister, announced that the government would proceed with current plans to allow generic drug manufacturers to supply cheap medicine to AIDS-ravaged countries.
Martin said he would follow through with current plans to excuse poor countries from patent rules, in line with the Aug. 30 World Trade Organization agreement. "These drugs must be provided to these countries -- and as quickly as possible," he urged. "[It] is not only something that has to be fulfilled, it is something Canada should fulfill."
The WTO agreement creates a legal loophole allowing desperate countries to override patents on expensive drugs and order cheaper copies from generic manufacturers. The patent holders receive a small fee.
Canada's patent laws prohibit drug producers from copying patented medicines for 20 years except for national distribution in emergencies. Canadian government departments are studying ways to amend Canada's complex web of regulatory guidelines so that generic AIDS drugs can be sent to sub-Saharan Africa and other poor areas where neither AIDS patients nor their governments can afford the high cost of antiretroviral drug cocktails.
Large pharmaceutical companies had hoped Martin would kill the current initiative. They fear the global market will be flooded with generics before their 20-year patents expire, and they warn that such a move will make it harder to recoup research and development costs for new drugs. But Jim Keon, president of the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association, scoffed at such concerns.
"We'd be exporting to countries that can't afford them," he said. "[Patent companies'] sales won't go down. They're not making any in these places as it stands."
10.01.03; Canadian Press
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.