Bill will ensure cheap source for AIDS drugs: Legislation expected next week will fulfil promises to Africa by Chretien, Martin
The Vancouver Sun
Thu 02 Oct 2003
OTTAWA -- The government could table legislation late next week that would make cheaper Canadian generic drugs available to AIDS patients in poor countries, government House leader Don Boudria said Wednesday.
The announcement follows statements of support for cheaper AIDS drugs for Africa by both Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, designated by initial leadership delegate voting last month as the Liberal party's choice to succeed the prime minister.
Boudria, who has been meeting privately with opposition parties to garner support for quick legislative action amending drug patent law, said in an interview it is impossible to table a bill on the issue this week. "Next week would be tight," he added. "Perhaps around the end of next week, but no sooner than that."
In the Commons, Chretien accused NDP MP Libbie Davies of "grandstanding" over the prospect of drug legislation after she accused the Liberals of dragging their feet.
Stephen Lewis, former Ontario NDP leader and former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations who is now a special UN envoy on HIV and AIDS in Africa, last week challenged Canada to amend its patent law to give poor countries devastated by AIDS a cheap source for drugs.
Pharmaceutical giants and developed countries have resisted pressure to allow generic exports to Africa and Third-World countries for years, arguing the cheaper drugs could find a way into richer countries where patent protection would be eroded.
"The NDP has consistently called on Canada to start the flow of cheap drugs to Africa," Davies told the Commons. "The government has promised treatment drugs before, but it has increased the patents instead. It must do better this time because humanity demands help for Africa now."
Chretien revealed that Boudria had already met with the opposition parties over possible legislation, and accused Davies of trying to exploit the issue to get attention. "We have to make the proper decision, but while they are discussing the timing for legislation she needed to grandstand, I guess, because they do not have much to complain about," said Chretien.
Canadian Alliance MP Rob Merrifield said his party will also likely support fast action. "I think that it just seems to be a humane thing do do, and we don't really have a problem with it and I don't really hear a lot of voices that are objecting to the idea," said Merrifield, the lead health critic for the Alliance caucus.
The legislation being proposed to amend existing drug patent law would cover drugs for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, but Davies said cheaper drugs should also be made available to combat cancer, diabetes and other diseases in the poor countries.
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