CETA could prove costly for generic drug consumers: activists
London Community News
By Paul Everest/London Community News/Twitter: @PaulEverest1
Under the ominous arms of the “CETApus,” roughly 20 activists gathered at London West MP Ed Holder’s office Wednesday evening (July 11) to voice their concerns about how a proposed trade agreement between Canada and the European Union could affect Canadian pharmaceutical consumers.
Holding signs and a large blue octopus made from tarpaulins dubbed CETApus, members of the For the Love of Canada-Stop CETA group and a number of concerned citizens set up base along a stretch of Commissioners Road outside Holder’s office with the aim of informing the public about what they say are the dangers of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
One part of CETA they said Canadians should be especially worried about are the pharmaceutical agreements which could delay the availability of cheaper, generic drugs in Canada.
The activists, who received many supportive honks from passing vehicles, argue Canada’s current “exclusivity” policy for pharmaceutical companies, which allows drug makers to sell a certain drug without competition for eight years, would be changed under CETA to allow exclusivity for 10 years.
That means Canadians will have to wait a further two years before cheaper, generic drugs become available for purchase.
“This one provision alone would cause an estimated $2.8 billion a year cost increase to consumers, businesses, unions and government insurers,” a media release from the activists states. “Perhaps worse, the wording in the agreement is ambiguous as to whether ‘exclusivity’ would be retroactively granted to expired patents such as Zoloft, now selling as the generic drug APO-Sertraline.”
The activists are also concerned generic drug makers in Canada would be kicked out of the Canadian market
The hour-long rally was held outside Holder’s office since he sits on a 12-member international trade committee taking part in CETA negotiations with European corporations, negotiations the activists say are taking part in secret.
Holder learned of the protest on the news and said many aspects of CETA have not been fully worked out.
“And so for these folks to express their concerns as it relates to whether it be patents or generic drugs and the cost of drugs in Canada, quite frankly, that hasn’t been negotiated yet,” Holder said. “If I don’t know the details of this at this point, and I certainly know both sides of the argument, then frankly they don’t know.”
When asked about the possibility of extending the exclusivity term by two years, Holder said he was not prepared to comment on the status of negotiations.
He added, however, that the trade commission has been lobbied on the CETA issue just as much from generic drug makers as anyone else and the government is looking out for all Canadians during the negotiation process.
“Canada has never negotiated a deal that has not been in the best interest of Canadians.”
The Canadian government has responded to concerns about increasing drug costs related to CETA with a statement on the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada website.
“The prices charged for patented medicines sold in Canada are regulated by the Patented Medicines Pricing Review Board,” the statement reads. “This will not change under a free trade agreement with the EU.”
The government also stated CETA negotiations are “open and transparent.”
The activist group, which included members of the Green Party of Ontario, the Council of Canadians and the Ontario Federation of Labour, said their concerns are based on studies conducted by the universities of Toronto and Calgary which looked at exclusivity rights in Canada.
The City of London voted in May to opt out of CETA until it hears more details about the agreement.