PUBLICATION National Post
DATE Tue 14 Oct 2003
SECTION/CATEGORY Financial Post: Comment
PAGE NUMBER FP11
BYLINE James Orbinski
HEADLINE: Rock is right on AIDS patent plan
Re: Allan Apotex's New Drug Scheme, Oct. 2.
In 2001, Allan Rock and his U.S. equivalent, Tommy Thompson,
simultaneously reached the same conclusion in response to the then
very real anthrax scare: Patents do not override public health
needs, and public health priorities cannot be held hostage to
companies that seek to profit rapaciously from actual or immanent
public emergencies. AIDS, TB, malaria and other epidemics in the
developing world are today actual public health priorities that
are destroying nations.
Contrary to Mr. Corcoran's argument, pharmaceutical companies are
not "people." The millions of Africans and others dying of
treatable infectious diseases in the developing world are.
Mr. Corcoran writes with a near-ideological zeal, as though patent
law is immutable, God-given and beyond adaptability to human
necessities. It is none of these, but like any law, must change to
meet genuine human needs. On Aug. 30 of this year, Canada and
every other member state of the WTO recognized this and agreed to
an imperfect but politically feasible interpretation of the 2001
WTO Doha declaration on access to life-saving essential medicines.
This 2003 agreement is the basis for Mr. Rock's initiative on
amending Canadian patent law to meet fully legal WTO TRIPS
restrictions and flexibilities to patent rights.
To Paul Martin, Ministers Graham, Pettigrew and Rock: Bravo, you
are doing your job -- balancing private and public interests, and
ensuring that the public interest is always the first priority. To
Mr. Corcoran: Ideology has rarely solved human problems -- more
often than not, it creates them.
James Orbinski, associate professor, St. Michaels' Hospital,
University of Toronto, past international president of Medecins
Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders.