Legislation to fix Access to Medicines Regime has its solution ripped out

Ottawa, ON- Today, Brian Masse, NDP Industry, Automotive and Border Critic slammed all the Conservatives and one Liberal member, Marc Garneau, of the House of Commons Industry committee for gutting the bill to fix Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) during the clause-by-clause phase by removing the ‘one license’ provisions from the legislation.

“It is outrageous that the government committee members and a sole Liberal member, after claiming to be concerned about the health of poor people around the world, voted to remove the mechanism that would provide the needed medications,” Masse stated. “This is an insult to all of the thousands of Canadians across the country who have worked so hard for this bill to fix the broken Access to Medicines Regime. It is unfortunate that these committee members chose to side with large foreign pharmaceutical corporations rather than sick children in poor countries.”

Canada's Access to Medicines Regime was introduced by the Liberal government of Paul Martin. It was meant to follow through on Jean Chrétien's Pledge to Africa by allowing generic drug makers to create versions of essential life saving brand-name patented medicines for sale to the poorest countries. Legislation created by CAMR was initially passed by Parliament just over five years ago with support from all political parties but many civil society groups have been advocating for its improvement. In its five years of operation, CAMR has only been used once due to its complexity and difficulty of use. The obstacles are enormous and CAMR has been deemed unworkable in its present form.

Before being amended, Bill C-393 called for CAMR to be streamlined with a simplified ‘one-license solution’ as proposed by the NDP, almost all NGOs working in the international health field, civil society groups, and world renown health experts . This approach would eliminate the need for separate negotiations with patent-holders for each purchasing country and each order of medicines, providing a more workable process to get affordable medicines for people in developing countries with HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria and a host of other diseases.

“The government and a member of the Liberal party’s leadership have been exposed as not really wanting to fix CAMR. A weakened bill will be voted on in the House. Foreign drug companies have more influence with the government and senior levels of the Liberal party than thousands of Canadians, international humanitarian organizations, or health experts. This is shameful and embarrassing for the country,” Masse stated.