Fixing Canada’s access to medicines regime

Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) was a unanimous pledge by Parliament to help people dying in developing countries because they lack access to affordable medicines.

So far, it has delivered only one medicine to one country since Parliament created it more than eight years ago (in May 2004).

CAMR is clearly not working.

It needs to be reformed to address the unnecessary deficiencies and limitations that have rendered it cumbersome and user-unfriendly for both developing countries and the manufacturers of lower-cost, generic medicines — the two parties that need to make use of CAMR if patients are to get the medicines they need.

In the last Parliament, the House of Commons passed another bill (Bill C-393) that would have made key changes to CAMR to make it work; including enacting what has been called the ‘one license solution.’

The bill was passed by a large majority in early March 2011 with strong support from MPs belonging to all parties.

However, Bill C-393 did not proceed through all the necessary stages in the Senate before Parliament was dissolved for a federal election a few days later; therefore, the bill died on the order paper and did not become law.

In the current Parliament, a new bill — Bill C-398 — was introduced in February 2012. This bill reintroduced the core reforms to CAMR that were already endorsed by the strong majority of MPs with the last bill. The large pharmaceutical companies have declared support. Bill C-398 gave Parliament a second chance to pass the changes needed to streamline CAMR.

It was with great disappointment that we learned the on Nov. 28, Earl Dreeshen, our Member of Parliament for Red Deer, and 148 MPs voted against Bill C-398. This resulted in a seven-vote defeat of this important legislation.

I have asked Mr. Dreeshen to provide his reasons for taking this position, contrary to the opinion of many of Red Deer constituents who are actively working to reduce suffering by people in Africa and other developing areas of the world.

Sam Denhaan

Red Deer