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NEWS: Patent protection emerges as contentious issue in Canada-EU trade talks

The Canadian Press reports, “The return of Parliament may be getting the attention, but it’s another kind of political re-start Monday that is likely to have the bigger ramifications for Canada’s future. Officials from the European Union are travelling to Ottawa for what is scheduled to be the penultimate session in their long-running trade talks road show. With the finish line in sight, battle lines are forming around the previously under-the-radar issue of intellectual property protection for pharmaceuticals.”

“At stake is whether Canada will agree to meet the European standard that gives pharmaceutical companies exclusive rights to detailed information (data exclusivity) on new patented drugs for 10 years, only a few years after Ottawa raised the domestic ceiling from five to eight. Critics are making the point that the longer the wait before the generic industry is barred from producing their own cheaper versions, the higher the cost to provinces and Canadians. The Council of Canadians, a left-wing activist group, trumpets a 2011 economic study concluding that lengthening data exclusivity and patent terms to EU standards could delay generic versions by 3.5 years and cost drug plans close to $3 billion. The Council of Canadians and other civil society groups released their own commissioned polling Sunday from Ipsos Reid. It suggested that while 81 per cent of Canadians support a trade deal with Europe, 69 per cent would oppose one if it meant higher drug costs even if it does encourage more research.”

“Stuart Trew, a trade campaigner with the Council, says he believes the Harper government is pre-disposed to back ‘Big Pharma’ on the issue despite the potential public backlash. That’s why his group staged a low-key demonstration in front of Parliament Hill on Sunday, with puppet replicas of the premiers and a ‘wheel of fortune’ that rendered the same result — ‘Higher drug costs’ — with every spin. ‘We’re aiming at the premiers because we’re worried the Harper government has made up its mind (and) the premiers are going to be the ones paying for the higher drug costs, and they’re in position to say no,’ he explained.” The photo caption with the article says, “With mock puppets representing the Canadian provincial premiers, Phillip Charbonneau of the Council of Canadians holds a demonstration illustrating that Canadians oppose drug patent extensions in the Canada-EU trade deal, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Sunday…”

The Canadian Press article – which so far appears in Canadian Business, the Winnipeg Free Press, iPolitics, CTV News, 680 News, and other outlets – can be read in full at The media release – with additional photos from today’s action – can be read at