Thursday 2 April 2009

Darren Olivier

Access to drugs: Canada's one licence solution

The Ottawa Citizen carries an interesting debate around a motion to reform Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) by streamlining Canada’s system for getting low-cost medicines to developing countries. It "will save lives" according to the Liberal senator who sponsored the bill. But his statement is not universally accepted. The full article is contained here.

"Senator Yoine Goldstein [alongside] Tuesday tabled Bill S-232 to amend the provisions of the Patent Act that deal with the manufacture and export of drugs for humanitarian purposes. The Act was amended in 2004 to create exemptions to intellectual property rules, enabling generic drug manufacturers to produce low-cost medication to treat HIV, tuberculosis and malaria in developing countries, particularly in Africa."

"The senator’s private member’s bill proposes what’s known as the “one-licence solution,” allowing a generic manufacturer to send multiple shipments of the same medication to a variety of countries without having to requalify for every shipment, as is currently the case. It would also make it easier for non-governmental organizations to buy and distribute generic medications under CAMR, something only governments are allowed to do at the moment."

However, according to Russell Williams, president of Rx&D. "It is an emotional debate but I believe that targeting CAMR is a problem," said Williams. "I don't see it as a barrier."

Apotex the only company to have tested the CAMR protocol thus far, vehemently disagrees. I don’t know whether we did the developing world a favour or a disservice by getting that first shipment of Triavir out,” said Bruce Clark, vice-president of regulatory affairs for Apotex. “It seems to have appeased the conscience of the legislators and of the brand industry, and let them think we don’t need to do anything else. That’s unconscionable.”...“It was sheer effort on our part to get that first shipment out. The brands say it’s [The Act]fair, fast and functional, but by whose definition? Would the patients in Africa say it’s functional?”

Either way, it is great to see efforts by developed countries to ease the passage of life saving drugs to the continent. It is also up to African nations to ensure that those drugs find their way to the needy in an efficient way. And there is tremendous debate africaside too - which can be followed through the label "access to drugs" alongside and the search function (top left).

Darren Olivier

Darren Olivier

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