The Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association released another report today on the impact it feels CETA will have on generics production in Canada. The report by Montreal-based E&B Data says global demand for generic medications is growing at 10 per cent each year. The industry already exports to 115 countries amounting to over $1 billion annually, says a press statement from the generics association, which earlier this year released an economic assessment of CETA estimating the deal’s intellectual property rules could add 3.5 years to the time it takes to get generic versions of brand name drugs to market. Under CETA, the generic sector “could lose their ability to seek timely access to new export markets, and opportunities in foreign markets would be captured earlier by manufacturers in countries that do not have the comparable barriers to trade that the EU proposals would create,” says the press statement.
On one level the battle between the brand name drug sector in Canada (Rx&D) and the generics comes down to market share. But it’s hard to argue with the latter’s numbers, which indicate the cost of drug plans (public and private) in Canada would increase by almost $3 billion annually under CETA. The Rx&D counter-offensive under the banner Protect Healthcare (http://ceta-aecg.ca) is much less credible, which is why the drug issue has become one of the most controversial in the EU trade negotiations.
According to an Embassy Magazine article yesterday, the Harper government has made no concessions to the EU on intellectual property for drugs, and “we may not make any moves on this issue.” However, a business lobbyist very close to the CETA talks told Embassy this probably isn’t true. “I cannot see any ways this negotiation can be complete without a move on IP, specifically pharmaceuticals, because [Europeans]…are keen to see changes occur,” said Jason Langrish of the Canada-Europe Round Table for Business (CERT).
The EU’s intellectual property demands don’t just have a commercial aspect. Attempts over the past two years to reform Canada’s export regime to make it easier to get generic HIV/AIDS medication to developing countries were quashed earlier this year by the Conservative government in the Senate. The campaign, led by the Grandmothers to Grandmothers, the HIV/AIDS Legal Network and others, aimed to get rid of red tape in the way of exporting generic versions of new medication to countries that need it most. These same groups are watching the CETA negotiations closely because of the capacity for the deal to set a bad precedent in the EU’s trade negotiations with developing countries.
To speak out against these intellectual property reforms in CETA, you can use the Action Alert on the Canadian Health Coalition website.
For more information, see my article with Council of Canadians Health Campaigner Adrienne Silnicki — CETA’s High Toll on Health Care — in our latest edition of Canadian Perspectives.