Canadian access-to-medicines bill passes second reading

Since 2008, UAEM chapters across Canada have been supporting the work of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network in lobbying for long-overdue reforms to Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR), a law which was intended to allow low-cost Canadian generic versions of patented drugs to be exported to poor countries.

When Canada passed this law in 2004 (called, at the time, the “Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa Act”), it was hailed for its leadership in trade and global health. Unfortunately, the process is laden with red tape and unnecessary requirements that make it very hard for Canadian generic drug companies to actually use: only one drug (an HIV drug) has been shipped to one country (Rwanda) by one company (Apotex Inc). Apotex has stated that they would be willing to use the law again, to export a much-needed low-cost anti-AIDS drug formulated specifically for children — but only if the law is revised to remove this unnecessary red tape.

Reform bills have finally been introduced (C-393 in the House of Commons, and S-292 in the Senate). Earlier this month, to our great joy, Bill C-393 passed second reading in the House by a 16-vote margin. The bill was supported by members of all parties: all members of the NDP and Bloc supported the bill, but both the Conservatives and Liberals were divided.

The Bill must now be reviewed by a Parliamentary committee before it faces a third and final vote in the House, and it is far from clear that all the MPs who supported this bill in second reading will continue their support in the final vote: we still have lots of work to do to ensure that our representatives understand the potential benefit of reforming this law!

You can learn more about CAMR at www.aidslaw.ca/camr. To get involved in this campaign, please contact Kevin Hooi (UAEM) or Lindsey Amèrica-Simms (Legal Network).

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