Category Archives: Bill C-393

Dear Government: please update the CAMR website

Much has occurred since 2004, the year Canada’s ambitious humanitarian law known as Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) came into force. In 2008-2009, one order of an HIV-drug left Canada for Rwanda, which highlighted the need to simplify the law and make it more user-friendly. (This order marked the one and only time the law was used.) Later, two reform bills (S-232 and C-393) entered Parliament in an attempt to amend the unworkable law. They both died in the Senate however: S-232 following prorogation in 2009 and C-393 after it was effectively stalled by Conservative Senators and left to die on the order paper when Parliament dissolved in 2011. CAMR raised many eyebrows and a handful of stories emerged online and in Canadian newspapers. Heck, even celebrities such as K’naan started talking about CAMR. But according to the Government of Canada website dedicated to CAMR, nothing new has occurred since March 13th, 2008. I’m not suggesting the government give a shout out to K’naan but it wouldn’t hurt to update the “what’s new” section. Just sayin’.

Passing drug bill imperative: AIDS in Africa could be stopped in its tracks if medications were available

Here is a recent op-ed written by Craig and Marc Kielburger of the non-profit Free the Children. Reprinted from the Edmonton Journal. Definitely worth a read…

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We build schools in Kenyan villages where teachers die, but their students refuse to name the cause because of its potent stigma, even as coffins are lowered into graves.

We’ve seen husbands, mothers, and then their children, wither away from a mysterious illness rather than be ostracized with a diagnosis.

In North America, access to treatment makes it possible for people with HIV/AIDS to lead relatively comfortable lives. In developing countries, where antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) are prohibitively expensive, AIDS is a curse.

There’s still no cure, but Canada has a chance to save potentially millions of lives with a single legislation. Bill C-393 would reform Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime, a system so flawed it’s only been used to ship a single drug to Rwanda since it was first introduced six years ago.

Bill C-393 allows Canadian companies to manufacture generic versions of patented drugs, like ARVs, making it easier to deliver affordable medicine to developing countries. It passed the House of Commons on March 9, but stalled in the Senate, and then died on the order paper when the government fell.

When Parliament resumes June 2 there will be numerous pleas for the attention of Stephen Harper’s majority government. But this is more than a plea. Finally passing this bill is a moral imperative, and research released since its initial passing has made it an urgent one.

A few weeks ago, a major clinical trial found that treating HIV-positive people with ARVs led to 96 per cent reduction of transmission for the 1,763 participating couples in 13 sites all over the world, including Kenya.

The breakthrough was so great that results were released four years earlier than scheduled.

“We have a new vaccine and it’s called treatment,” Dr. Jennifer Cohn from Medecins sans frontieres, a medical relief organization with offices in Kenya, recently told the Nairobi Star. Advocacy organizations also predicted the virus could be eradicated in Kenya in just a few years.

Kenya is our second home -we’ve spent the past 15 summers there. We love the untouched beauty of its landscapes and the warmth of its people, but we’re sick with the knowledge that AIDS devastates the country.

Mary was a nurse in Kenya’s Rift Valley. She knew her husband had been unfaithful, and that she was in danger. But he refused to wear condoms -he’d paid her dowry, she was his property. When Mary was diagnosed with HIV, her husband abandoned her while she was pregnant with their second child. Women are more likely to be identified as carriers because of prenatal testing. Her child, who we will call Abby, was born HIV-positive.

Mary couldn’t afford proper treatment. When she died, none of her close relatives would adopt Abby for fear of “catching” the virus. The now two-year-old has little hope of receiving the medicine she desperately needs to survive.

Canadian pharmaceutical company Apotex Inc. has promised to make a generic duplicate of a pediatric ARV should bill C-393 pass. Dr. James Orbinski, founder of the medical humanitarian organization Dignitas International and staunch supporter of C-393, has said this alone would save millions of lives, since generic drugs reduce treatment costs from $10,000 to $100 a year -even less for children, like Abby.

We wonder how many people were infected while Canada’s unelected Senate stalled a bill that passed in the House of Commons with a vote 172 to 111 -including support from the Bloc and NDP, all but two Liberals and a handful of Conservatives.

But not a single Conservative cabinet minister supported the bill, and brand-name drug companies, threatened by the prospect of lost business, lobbied against it.

Ideally, competition on the global market would increase with added competition from generic companies better able to compete on price, driving costs down for poor people dying preventable deaths. This is a humanitarian aid bill meant to save lives, not money.
After years battling opposition and regulatory quirks in the House, only to be stalled to death in the Senate, Bill C-393 isn’t guaranteed a swift pass through this Parliament.

Canada’s political landscape has changed. The NDP say they will reintroduce the private member’s bill that was first passed in the minority Parliament.

Canada has two choices.

The Conservative government could bolster the country’s reputation on the world stage at no cost to taxpayers. In fact, passing the bill would make Canada’s foreign aid dollars go further because we, and developing countries, could purchase more medicine for less.

Or, our government could fail to act, leaving countless people to die needless deaths.

Drop a beat: Grannies rap about access to medicines

Canadian grannies and their families rap to K’naan’s Wavin Flag to demand that Canada make good on its promise to provide affordable medicines to countries in need. A child dies every 6 seconds in developing countries because of a lack of affordable, lifesaving medicines. Some 17 million children in Africa have been orphaned because of HIV/AIDS. Most are being raised by their courageous, desperately poor grandmothers. You can help–take action at http://www.aidsaction.ca/ and contact your local politicians today!

A chance for Canada to make good (for a change).

Here’s an interesting press release regarding Canada’s reputation as a do-gooder. It seems that it’s taken a hit over the last few years, but that there’s still opportunities to improve our image: a big one being our possible actions on the Access to Medicine front.

Anyway, here’s the just released press release. And don’t forget: If you’re a reader from Canada, don’t forget to check out aidsaction.ca. Here, you can look up your candidates and send off an email to support the Call to Action to reform Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime and help save lives!

For immediate release

NEW POLL SHOWS CANADIANS CONCERNED ABOUT GLOBAL REPUTATION, BUT CONFIDENT IT CAN BE IMPROVED BY MAKING AFFORDABLE MEDICINES AVAILABLE TO DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

Grassroots campaign begins to build support for quick passage of bill after election

Toronto, April 26, 2011 – A new public opinion poll shows twice as many Canadians (35%) believe the country’s international reputation has declined in the last few years rather than improved (17%), with a third (37%) believing it has just remained the same. But according to the same poll, seven in 10 Canadians (71%) feel that it would improve the country’s reputation if Canada were to pass a bill making it easier to supply less expensive, generic medicines to people in developing countries for diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Canada was on the verge of passing such a law – Bill C-393 to reform Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) – before it was delayed in the Senate and thus died on the order paper when the election was called.

“This poll confirms the tremendous opportunity presented to Members of Parliament and Senators willing to fix Canada’s broken Access to Medicines Regime,” said Richard Elliott, Executive Director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. “Not only will such a bill help get desperately needed medicines to people dying of treatable diseases, it will also improve Canada’s reputation as a good global citizen.”

With Canada’s foreign aid now frozen and the loss of a seat at the UN Security Council seen by some as a setback for the country’s international reputation, humanitarian initiatives such as legislation to fix CAMR – which will cost taxpayers nothing – presents a compelling rallying point.

In fact, a grassroots movement made up of grandmothers groups, student organizations, and health and human rights activists have launched www.AIDSaction.ca. It asks every candidate from the major federal parties in every riding to indicate whether they support fixing CAMR to help those most in need. The website will track candidates’ responses online in an interactive chart so voters across the country can see which candidates in their riding have already stated their support for fixing CAMR. It also makes it easy for voters to e-mail the candidates in their ridings to ask them where they stand if they haven’t yet replied.

“Canadians were strongly behind a bill that would have saved lives,” said Andrea Beal, co-chair of the National Advocacy Committee of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. “We’re asking candidates to listen to the will of the people and support making affordable medicines accessible to developing countries. This new poll is just further evidence of why they should act.”

Created unanimously by Parliament in 2004, CAMR has been rendered practically useless because of red tape. Only one order of one medicine was ever filled, and to just a single country. The one generic drug company that did use CAMR has said it will not attempt to use the cumbersome process again, nor will any developing countries try. Critical to the goal of cutting through this red tape is the “one-license solution”, a key part of any CAMR-reform legislation.

Before Bill C-393 died in the Senate last month, public momentum was behind efforts to make affordable medicines available to people who need them. The legislation – which included the “one-license solution” – had the support of many prominent Canadians including international aid workers, human rights leaders, physicians and faith leaders. It was also supported by more than 70 000 Canadians who signed a petition or sent letters calling on Parliament to pass the bill into law. When the House voted on March 9, Bill C-393 passed by a strong majority – 172 to 111 – with support from MPs representing all parties.

“Canadians have shown over and over that they get it when it comes to the rights of all people to have access to medicines that will save their lives,” said Aria Ahmad, coordinator of the University of Toronto chapter of the international student group Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM). “We urge candidates for Parliament to listen to them.”

More background information on efforts to fix Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime including detailed arguments by international legal and health experts in favour of previous legislative attempts to do just that can be reviewed at www.aidslaw.ca/camr.
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A Primer on the Subject of Access to Medicines

Here’s a piece I wrote for online reading at Scientific American. It basically tries to cover the main ideas and main challenges in Access to Medicines issues. Not a bad place to start to get into the swing of things. Also, If you’re a reader from Canada, don’t forget to check out aidsaction.ca. Here, you can look up your candidates and send off an email to support the Call to Action to reform Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime and help save lives!

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30 minutes, 70 fates.

You don’t know it, but as I write this piece, there is some serious procrastination going on. My attention span is weak and sidetracked constantly by a variety of diversions, and if you must know, it’s taken me close to half an hour to write these first two sentences. Still, one could argue that none of us are strangers to procrastination, and 30 minutes is relatively short – only a minor instance of time in the grand scheme of things.

But a lot can happen in thirty minutes. Earlier, I had been looking over some 2009 UNAIDS statistics, and noting the numbers issued in the report. They are all very big, big enough certainly to require the pressing of buttons on calculators. More to the point, I learn that during my thirty minutes, approximately 70 people died from HIV/AIDS in Sub-Sahara Africa. That’s 1.3 million victims each year – in Sub-Sahara Africa alone. Many of these were parents leaving orphans, and many were young children just leaving. Most troubling, however, is the fact that all of them suffered their fate with a loss of dignity.

Why do I say this? I say this because people shouldn’t have to die from HIV/AIDS. There are good medicines out there, and they can control the disease. In fact, for those in the developed world, HIV/AIDS is now considered a chronic disorder, not a death sentence. If you are diagnosed, you are no longer forced to take a shortcut to demise. You can still have a long life, you can still be productive, and you can still live with dignity.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t an option for those who passed away. For them, the medicines were out of reach. They were simply too expensive. And from this, you come to realize a cold hard fact in this narrative: that the fate of a person living or dying from HIV/AIDS is determined by their income. This statement is fairly straightforward, with no mincing of words, or confused rhetoric. But for most, it feels fundamentally wrong, and yet, it is a simple reality of how the world works today. Why it works in this way, however, is complicated.
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Voting: An Access to Medicines Perspective

If you’re looking for the most access to medicines friendly party in this election, I’d say the NDP is looking pretty good right now.

Jack Layton has done two monumental things for C-393 so far in my opinion. In the English language debate he noted the audacity of the Senate to block a bill passed by the House of Commons. Then, in his official party platform, he explicitly states that his party will aim to remove the red tape for the export of generics. –> http://www.ndp.ca/platform/leadership-on-world-stage#section-6-3

You might also notice that on the newly launched www.aidsaction.ca, the NDP have all endorsed C-393, contrast that with the rest of the parties. Hmm…look’s like someone’s got their priorities straight.

Note: this post is based on personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the position of UAEM

IT’S ALIVE PEOPLE! (http://AIDSaction.ca) #aidsaction


Janet says:

Dear friends,

AIDSAction.ca is now live – a grassroots online community where you, personally, can make positive change related to the human rights issues facing people affected by and vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, in Canada and internationally.

And there’s no better time to take action than right now – during the 2011 federal election! Please visit http://www.aidsaction.ca to ask candidates in your riding to indicate their support for fixing Canada’s (broken) Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) and stand up for those most in need. You can also visit our interactive Candidates Chart to see which candidates in your riding have already stated their support for fixing CAMR.

If you want to make your voice heard, AIDSAction.ca is one way to do it! Please spread the word widely and ask your personal networks to stand with you as you work to make our world a better place.

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

LINK: AIDSaction.ca