On August 5, 2014 – 10 months after announcing an “agreement in principle” had been reached – Prime Minister Harper announced that negotiators had finalized details on a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union. CETA will include longer patents (up to two years) for brand name pharmaceuticals, as well as other new rules that will delay the release of cheaper generic drugs.
A Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study released on October 31 predicts these changes in CETA will add between $850 million and $1.65 billion annually to the cost of prescription drugs in Canada!
This was a one-way cave-in (or a big give-away?) to Big Pharma with no benefits to Canada, whether in the form of promised jobs or new innovation from European drug companies, which stand to make a lot of money from the unnecessary patent changes.
Provinces don’t want to pay more for public drug plans
Harper had only just announced his new deal with the EU when the provinces started putting out statements saying they want to be compensated for any increases in drug prices. As it stands now, provincial governments will either have to pay for these increases or offload them to patients.
Instead, provinces are asking for federal money, which is just our tax money when you think about it. No matter how you cut it, the public will be paying for longer patents – with our money going straight into the pockets of rich, multinational pharmaceutical companies.
India stood up to European bullying on patents
The Indian government, which is also negotiating a trade and investment deal with Europe, successfully fought to take out the same drug patent changes because of their high cost. There is no good excuse why Canada, and the provinces, shouldn’t take the same position.
Canadians can’t afford CETA
In January 2012 the Canadian Medical Association Journal published a new study that showed one in ten Canadians (one in nine people in B.C.) do not fill their drug prescriptions because they can’t afford to. Canada’s premiers recognized the financial hardship drug prices cause and are in the process of creating a joint purchasing plan for generic drugs. But the savings that will be gained by bulk purchasing a few generic drugs will be wiped out by CETA.
Canadians don’t want a deal that raises drug costs
A poll conducted by Ipsos Reid, and released in September by the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Health Coalition, shows that 69 per cent of Canadians oppose a Canada-European Union free trade deal that would lengthen patent protections for brand name drugs.
Why reward Big Pharma?
During the Mulroney government years, Big Pharma agreed that 10 per cent of their sales would be spent on new product development. Today, Big Pharma spends 5.6 per cent, the lowest rate since 1988! And half of the research and development that is occurring is recouped by the firms from the government in tax credits, so it’s actually funded by the public!
We can’t afford to let the Harper government sign a deal that makes us up to $1.65 billion poorer each year just so Big Pharma can make more money. Our provincial health care systems can’t afford it, and Harper shouldn’t be promising it to European officials without even discussing the deal with Canadians.
Tell your premier you oppose Harper’s billion-dollar bonus for Big Pharma. We need to be thinking of ways to reduce drug costs, not making them more expensive by granting longer patents and more monopoly protections to some of the richest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Send your letter today!