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Why Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime Can Never Succeed

Amir Attaran

University of Ottawa - Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine; University of Ottawa - Common Law Section


UNB Law Journal, Vol. 60, pp. 150-160

In 2004, Canada enacted into law the Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa Act - now redubbed Canada's Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR). The law was Canada's gesture to implement World Trade Organization decisions that eased the rules on manufacturing and exporting patented medicines, where these were needed by poor countries in Africa and elsewhere lacking the means to manufacture. Although enacted with much fanfare, the law has resulted in only a single shipment of AIDS medicines from Canada to Rwanda - a one-off wonder that the supplier of the medicines says it is unwilling to repeat. CAMR is therefore generally regarded as a failure.

Six years later, in 2010, Canada's House of Commons and Senate are entertaining amendments to resurrect CAMR into usefulness. In this paper, I examine the proposed amendments now before the House of Commons and the Senate. I conclude that the amendments are highly unlikely to bring any benefits to public health, and on the contrary, are so dangerously misconceived as to threaten human health or life. Much the same rules as are contained in the amendments have already been tried in the laws of China, the European Union, India, Norway, South Korea and Switzerland, without resulting in any medicines - not so much as one pill - being exported to poor countries in need. Further, the amendments remove the regulatory scrutiny of Canada's Food and Drugs Act, meaning that in the future, medicines manufactured in Canada could be exported to poor countries exempt from all scientific standards of safety and efficacy. Not even Canada's generic drug industry supports the latter proposal, although surprisingly, charities such as Médecins Sans Frontières, Oxfam and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and United Nations organizations such as UNICEF and UNDP, have given the amendments their enthusiastic support.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 11

Keywords: Canada, Access to Medicine Regime, Patent Law, Pharmaceuticals, Drugs, Counterfeit Medicines

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Date posted: February 15, 2010 ; Last revised: June 25, 2013

Suggested Citation

Attaran, Amir, Why Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime Can Never Succeed (2010). UNB Law Journal, Vol. 60, pp. 150-160. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1552091

Contact Information

Amir Attaran (Contact Author)
University of Ottawa - Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine ( email )
451 Smyth Road
Ottawa, Ontario K1H 8M5
University of Ottawa - Common Law Section ( email )
57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, K1N 6N5
613-562-5800 ext: 2015 (Phone)
613-562-5659 (Fax)

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