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Pharmaceutical giant helps organize Liberal Party fundraiser

Apotex Inc. chairman Barry Sherman, Finance Minister Bill Morneau

The federal lobbying commissioner is investigating the role Apotex Inc. is playing in a Liberal Party fundraiser that will take place in Toronto on November 7.

The Globe and Mail reports, “Federal lobbying commissioner Karen Shepherd said she will probe the role of Apotex Inc. chairman Barry Sherman in helping organize and sell $500 tickets for an elite Liberal Party fundraiser on Nov. 7 at the home of Toronto philanthropist Nancy Pencer and funeral home executive Michael Benjamin. Finance Minister Bill Morneau is scheduled to be the prize guest at the exclusive event. The lobbying commissioner usually does not comment on specific cases, but Ms. Shepherd noted The Globe had already reported that the generic drug manufacturer’s chief lobbyist, John Duffy, has lobbied the Finance Department three times in the past six months.”

That earlier article explains, “Apotex is registered as lobbying Finance Canada through its consultant lobbyist John Duffy, who met with Mr. Morneau’s director of policy, Robert Asselin, three times in the past six months. The federal lobbyist registry also shows that Apotex has lobbied Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, Health Minister Jane Philpott and International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.”

The Globe and Mail adds, “Apotex spokesman Elie Betito told The Globe on Tuesday that the Nov. 7 ‘fundraising event is not part of Apotex’s program of government relations’ but simply a private undertaking by Mr. Sherman, who is one of the largest shareholders in the pharmaceutical giant. Apotex is suing the federal government for $500-million for banning the company’s drug imports from India. Mr. Morneau sits on the federal cabinet committee on litigation management, which deals with lawsuits against Ottawa.”

Shepherd says “pay-for-access” fundraisers may breach the Lobbying Act. Ethics commissioner Mary Dawson says, “One wonders whether people are getting unfair access.” Morneau has responded, “I know that we have very closely followed all of those federal rules to ensure that we do things that uphold the highest standards.”

Apotex was “founded in 1974, and is the largest Canadian-owned pharmaceutical company. Apotex produces more than 300 generic pharmaceuticals in approximately 4,000 dosages and formats which, in Canada, are used to fill over 89 million prescriptions a year – the largest amount of any pharmaceutical company in this country. The company’s pharmaceuticals can be found in virtually every pharmacy and healthcare facility in Canada and are exported to over 115 countries around the globe. Export markets represent an ever growing portion of the total sales. The worldwide sales of the Apotex Group of companies exceed $2 billion (Canadian $) per year.”

In August 2014, Council of Canadians health care campaigner Michael Butler wrote, “Apotex recently had their patent claim denied by the Supreme Court of Canada but were granted leave this year and the Supreme Court will consider the validity of the PLAVIX patent (the ‘777 Patent’) for the second time. If this doesn’t go their way, expect another investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) challenge similar to the Eli Lilly case. Not surprisingly, American regulators have already put Canada on the ‘naughty list,’ for having too loose of a patent regime, i.e. not completely biases in the favour of ‘Big Pharma’.”

Butler says, “Canada has the distinction of being the only developed country with a universal health care system that does not include prescription drug benefits for everyone. Our current fragmented system means higher drug costs for you, and huge profits for Big Pharma. Vested interests will try to tell you that pharmacare is too expensive. But evidence shows it is the key to affordability and accessibility. Canadians know that it is time for change, with 91 per cent of us supporting universal pharmacare. The missing ingredient? Federal leadership.”

If you weren’t invited to the November 7 Liberal Party fundraiser, you can send a message in favour of pharmacare to the Liberal government by clicking here.

To read Butler’s recently released report A Prescription for Better Medicine: Why Canadians need a national pharmacare program, click here.