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Support Bill C-398: Sign the petition(s) to improve access to medicine and save lives

Hélène Laverdière, NDP MP for Laurier-Sainte-Marie, has re-introduced legislation (Bill C-398) that will make it easier for Canada to export cheap life-saving medication to countries that need it most. The legislation, which has support from all political parties, would amend Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR), created eight years ago but mired by red tape that gets in the way of exports of generic HIV/AIDS and other drugs. As CBC reported this year on the bill’s earlier incarnation (C-393):

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.

Some critics of the earlier bill pointed to it being possibly illegal under the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) but as the HIV/AIDS Legal Network argues this clearly isn’t true, and that in some instances the reforms will make CAMR “even more consistent with TRIPS by taking advantage of explicit flexibilities not currently reflected in CAMR.” Those flexibilities were spelled out in the 2001 WTO Ministerial Council’s Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health (“Doha Declaration”), and the WTO General Council’s Decision (August 30, 2003)on the use of compulsory licensing for export to eligible countries.

There are threats to CAMR on the horizon from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement negotiations, which Canada and Mexico will officially join this December in Auckland, New Zealand. According to U.S. public interest group, Public Citizen:

The U.S.-proposed terms (in the TPP) would inhibit access to medicines in individual Trans-Pacific FTA countries and also constrain potential and emerging sources of supply such as Vietnam and Malaysia. Applied regionally, the Trans-Pacific FTA would limit the economies of scale necessary for the generics industry to keep prices low. These risks combined make the Trans-Pacific FTA especially dangerous for generic competition and access to medicines in the Asia-Pacific region.


Before Canada enters the TPP negotiations, we should do what we can to support CAMR reform. Both the NDP and Grandmothers Advocacy Network have petitions up that you can sign and circulate. According to the Grandmothers:

To date we have over 50 MPs of all parties who either have/or will present the petition in Parliament, some presenting more than once. This, too, is a remarkable achievement as more Members of Parliament than ever are aware of constituent support for Bill C-398..

To access a printable petition you can circulate in your community, click here. For background information about the petition from the Grandmothers website, click here.

A similar petition on the NDP website reads as follows:

We the undersigned residents of Canada draw attention of the House of Commons to the following:

THAT while progress has been made in increasing access to life-saving affordable medicines in developing countries, it is still the case that: 1) millions of people die needlessly each year from treatable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria; 2) half the people who require treatment for HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa do not receive it; and 3) in sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS continues to be the largest killer of women of child-bearing age while one in two children born with AIDS dies before the age of two;

THAT Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) was intended to provide affordable, life-saving generic medicines to developing countries but because its provisions are unnecessarily complicated, it has been used once since 2004 and will not be used again in its current form;

THAT Bill C-393, to reform CAMR, passed in the House on March 9, 2011 with support from MPs in all parties but did not pass the Senate before the 2011 election;

THAT Bill C-398, currently before the House, has the provisions necessary to make CAMR workable, at no cost to taxpayers.

THEREFORE we call upon the House to pass Bill C-398, without significant amendment, to facilitate the immediate and sustainable flow of life-saving generic medicines to developing countries.

To sign this petition online, click here.