On March 9, the House of Commons passed Bill C-393 in a 172-111 vote. (That afternoon, the Council of Canadians Tweeted a message encouraging people to contact their Member of Parliament to vote in favour of C-393.)
If passed by the Senate, this legislation would allow generic drug companies to get one license that can be used for multiple drugs in multiple countries, allow for greater efficiencies, and bring down the cost of essential medicines for those most in need. CBC.ca further explains, “Under the current system, generic drug makers in Canada must obtain a special licence each time they want to sell a cheaper version of a patented drug to a developing country, and the licence is only valid for two years. They also have to pay royalties on the sales to the drug companies that hold the patents. …The changes Bill C-393 makes include allowing generic drug companies to fill multiple orders of the same medication to different countries under one licence and to lift the time limit for the licence.”
While the legislation is supported by the New Democrats (C-393 was introduced as a private members bill by NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis), the Bloc Québécois, and most Liberal Members of Parliament, the Conservative government opposes it.
The legislation now goes to the Conservative-dominated Senate.
If the Senate does not allow the bill to come to a vote before the federal election (expected to be called as early as Thursday March 24), the bill will die. The task is to get the Senate to vote – and approve – the bill as quickly as possible. Liberal senators have agreed to this, so the task is to get Conservative senators to agree as well.
It is possible that the Senate could vote on C-393 on Monday March 21.
To send a message with this demand to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Senator Marjory LeBreton (the Leader of the Government in the Senate), please go to https://secure.avaaz.org/en/save_lives/.
To read Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow’s plea from May 2003 for the fair and equitable access to critically needed medications around the world, please go to http://canadians.org/publications/CP/2003/summer/patenting.html.