Canada: Hope for Cheap HIV Drugs Dims
September 21, 2009
A five-year-old Canadian initiative to send cheap generic drugs to countries hard-hit by HIV/AIDS is mired in debate over whether the government program is too cumbersome to be effective.
Canada's Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) received all-party support and praise from the UN when Liberals introduced it five years ago. But the legislation requires generic drug makers to separately negotiate with patent-holders for approval of each medication order from each purchasing country. So far, only Rwanda has taken part in the program, requesting enough AIDS drugs to treat 21,000 patients for two years.
Currently, two bills before Parliament -- C-393 in the House of Commons and S-232 in the Senate -- seek to streamline the drug approval process, creating a "one-license solution" that would eliminate the requirement for separate negotiations with patent holders for each purchasing country and each medication order, said Richard Elliott, the executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.
However, the ruling Conservatives believe the current program is working. "Our government is opposed to the two private member bills that were introduced in Parliament as they would eliminate key operational aspects of CAMR, including a Health Canada review that ensures drugs exported under the regime are safe, effective, and of high quality," said Lynn Meahan, press secretary to Industry Minister Tony Clement.
Apotex Inc., the generic drug maker that supplied AIDS drugs to Rwanda under CAMR, said it will decline further participation in the program unless the process is simplified. "There is some hope, but this government does not have the motivation to change it because it is not their legislation," said Elie Betito, Apotex's director of public and government affairs.
09.19.2009; Tanya Talaga
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