Letter from Jim Keon, President of the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association, to Prime Minister Jean Chretien

November 20, 2002

The Right Honourable Jean Chretien
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A2

Re: Canada’s role in providing affordable medicines to developing countries

Dear Prime Minister:

As you may know, at last year’s international trade meetings in Doha, an agreement was reached to allow developing countries to import low-cost generic medicines in times of health emergencies, such as the current HIV/AIDS crisis in sub-Saharan Africa.

You have been a strong proponent of developed countries like Canada playing a more prominent role in taking steps to provide humanitarian and economic assistance to raise the standard of living and decrease human suffering in African countries. Given the tragic HIV/AIDS pandemic that is decimating large parts of that continent, the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association (CGPA) believes that Canada has an opportunity, and even a moral obligation, to take a leadership role in ensuring that the current negotiations on the implementation of the Doha Agreement ensure that those countries can import life-saving, affordable medicines.

Many of the countries stricken with diseases like HIV/AIDS are quite poor and do not have the domestic manufacturing capabilities to produce their own low-cost versions of pharmaceutical products that their citizens so desperately need. As part of the Doha Agreement, these countries should be allowed, in times of health crises, to import generic versions of patented medicines under a system of compulsory licensing.

It is our strong assertion, as now seems to be supported by proposals from the European Union, that these countries should be allowed to import generic medicines from anywhere in the world to ensure maximum cost savings and adequate supply. Unfortunately, it appears that some countries such as the United States and Switzerland with powerful, multi-national brand name pharmaceutical companies based in their countries, are attempting to limit the sources from which these medicines can be provided.

In the past, Canadian generic drug companies that have offered to provide HIV/AIDS drugs at cost to countries in sub-Saharan Africa have been stopped because the Patent Act prohibits the production and export of products under patent protection in Canada. Obviously, for Canadian companies to participate in providing Canadian-made generic pharmaceuticals to developing countries, amendments to the Patent Act would need to be made.

The CGPA asks you to please take a strong, public stand in support of ensuring that the implementation of the Doha Agreement allows countries in need to import low-cost drugs from producers around the world.

If you would like to meet with representatives of the CGPA to discuss this issue, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely,

Jim Keon


CC: The Honourable Pierre Pettigrew
Minister for International Trade

The Honourable Allan Rock
Minister of Industry

Stephen Lewis
United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa

chrétien –doha - nov 20, 2002

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