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CAMR – No problems with the WTO

The hearings into Bill S-232 on reforming Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime continued in the Senate Banking, Trade and Commerce committee. Both witnesses today appeared by teleconference – one from Geneva, the other from the University of Florida.

First up was Antony Taubman, Director of International Property Division of the WTO, and while he wasn’t in a position to offer any opinions on the legislation itself, he gave a great deal of background into the WTO agreements that allowed for the creation of CAMR and similar legislation. From this particular round of questions, we learned that if – and it’s a big if – these amended CAMR provisions were indeed contrary to WTO provisions, there is no automatic policing method. There would have to be a complaint from a member country for it to head to a bilateral dispute resolution mechanism. Taubman also pointed out that while the current legislation may have little take-up with the existing pharmacopoeia, it is likely to be more useful with second generation drugs that countries like India face additional patent protections on.

The second witness was Frederick M. Abbott, the Edward Ball Eminent Scholar and Professor of International Law at the Florida State University College of Law. He’s been involved in these issues for years, and in fact testified in the House of Commons committee when the first CAMR bill was passed, and he had reservations then that it didn’t go far enough. This bill proves that he was right.

According to Abbott, the bill would change the bargaining conditions by which generic drug manufacturers negotiate with patent holders and developing nations in order to supply them these medicines. By streamlining this process, it allows them to engage in economies of scale, which then allows them to become more competitive. Hmm. Didn’t we hear this before? From Apotex maybe?

Abbott also made the point that if our generic drug industry was so expensive and inefficient, then it wouldn’t still exist because of competition factors. He also noted that this bill fixes most of his concerns with the original CAMR legislation, so he’s very much in favour of keeping it as is.
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