Bill C-393 and the 'One-License Solution'

 In 2004, The Canadian Government pledged to make it easier for developing countries to access essential medicine by creating 'Canada's Access to Medicines Regime'. CAMR was supposed to help manufacture cheap, generic versions of patented medicines and distribute them to developing countries.

While it clearly identified the need for inexpensive drugs in developing regions, the legislature associated with CAMR prevented the drugs from being manufactured or shipped. CAMR failed in its mandate to bring necessary medicine to regions that need it the most.

In 2004, The Canadian Government pledged to make it easier for developing countries to access essential medicine by creating 'Canada's Access to Medicines Regime'. CAMR was supposed to help manufacture cheap, generic versions of patented medicines and distribute them to developing countries. While it clearly identified the need for inexpensive drugs in developing regions, the legislature associated with CAMR prevented the drugs from being manufactured or shipped. CAMR failed in its mandate to bring necessary medicine to regions that need it the most.

The fatal flaws of CAMR were addressed in bill C-393, which attempted to streamline the legal issues keeping drug manufacturers from getting affordable medicine to developing areas. This bill was shot down in the House of Commons on November 1st, keeping the ineffective CAMR system in place. 

Thankfully, Bill C-393 is back up for debate, and we need your help to make sure that Canada lives up to its promise to provide low-cost medicine to developing countries. If this bill passes, it has the potential to save thousands of lives.  

Here is what you need to know about Bill C-393, and why you need to help: 

  • Developing countries need effective medicine the most. Compared to high income countries, they are more likely to face shortcomings in healthcare infrastructure, and experience higher rates of infection from serious diseases.
  • Despite the fact that developing countries face the greatest danger from infectious disease, they receive the smallest amounts of effective medicine. For example, Africa accounts for only 2% of global pharmaceutical sales while experiencing record levels of disease-related infection and death.
  • In response to the disparity between the developing world's demand for medicine and the amount of treatment received, the Canadian Government created 'Canada's Access to Medicine Regime' (CAMR) to increase medicine supply to developing regions. 
  • The current regime includes over 100 clauses which dictate the eligibility of manufacturers and beneficiary countries to engage in the CAMR process. These clauses make it difficult or even impossible for manufacturers and developing countries to participate.
  • The current regime includes powerful economic disincentives to participation. Manufacturers are forced to sell their medicine at a fraction of its domestic value while increasing the cost of production. It ensures a low return on investment, and makes manufacturers of generic drugs vulnerable to competition from countries with fewer legal limitations and lower production costs.
  • The costliness and legal complexity of the CAMR system have made it virtually unuseable. It has been used only once since CAMR's creation in 2004, when a Canadian generic drug manufacturer sent two shipments of AIDS drugs to Rwanda. Following the shipment, the manufacturer declared that it would not participate in the CAMR program again unless it was overhauled.
  • Bill C-393 will alter the CAMR regulations to create a system which is usable by manufacturers of generic drugs and the developing countries who need them.
  • C-393 removes the licensing restrictions surrounding sale of generic drugs on international markets. The bill's 'One-Step solution' allows the manufacturer to distribute medicine anywhere in the world if they have a single license from the patent owner. The previous model required the manufacturer to negotiate a license for every country the drugs would be sold in, which prevented effective distribution of medicine where it was needed.
  • The changes outlined in Bill C-393 will cost nothing to Canadian taxpayers.
  • The 'One-step- solution' complies with international trade and intellectual property laws. It has been fully approved by the WTO and encourages responsible competition between manufacturers. See the 2001 Doha Declaration and the WTO 'TRIPS' agreement on intellectual property for more details.
  • Bill C-393 improves the effectiveness of humanitarian aid. Manufacturers of generic medicines spend less on distribution and legal costs, so they can reduce prices and ship greater amounts of medicine. It has the potential to have a massive impact on the health of developing nations.

The amendments included in Bill C-393 would save thousands of lives, but it is in danger of being voted down once again. We need your help!

Phone, Email or Tweet your MP and tell them that you support Bill C-393, and they should too. Click here to take action!