Thursday, March 03, 2011

One-Step for Generics, One Giant Leap for Africa

It's rare that a bill catches my attention from three different sources, but Bill C-393 rocketed into my field of view (which is usually only big enough to cover whatever bacon is in front of me and the location of my next coffee) like a firework; I could not possibly ignore it. The bill itself amends the Food and Drug administration act in the hopes of loosening the drug patent act enough to allow the export of generic drugs for humanitarian efforts overseas.

One of the main arguments against the bill is the idea that we cannot be sure the drugs will be used for humanitarian purposes, rather than being sent into the black-market. A common argument against people owning handguns is that unlike rifles, which are primarily used for hunting, handguns have only one purpose - to kill people. The flip-side of this argument, pertaining to Bill C-393, is that whatever happens to medicines that are sold through the black market, it is hard to picture anything they could do other than be used for their AIDS/HIV/Tuberculosis controlling purpose (Is there a large, underground, anti-retro-viral-snorting community?). It is true, we run the risk of people being exploited for a higher price for drugs, but we can at least count on the fact that anytime people can get a drug for cheaper, they would certainly do so - therefore they will obviously only be paying the higher black-market cost if we are unable to supply them with drugs anyway, and it is a hard call to insists they should not have access to drugs if they do not come straight from us ("Sorry you're dying, but that guy is a felon!"). Personally, the notion that we can subvert the black-market enough to use it to promote medicine is a rather tasty piece of irony.

The main consequence I can see that does not appear to be getting any press time, is the fact that with the drop in income that is expected for pharmaceutical companies, given the increased availability of generic drugs - thus causing increased competition, and the loss of income from people in other countries that would have otherwise bought brand-name drugs, is going to result in a loss of research spending, even considering the royalties that generic drug companies will be required to pay the holders of patents they are utilizing . As much as we hate to admit it, we rely on drug research done by  big companies, and so if this bill is adopted (which I support) we must lean on the government to increase research funding for universities and health care facilities to make up the drop in drug research, which I would rather have the theoretically impartial government conducting research on drugs, rather than companies which may have alternate agendas.  

The other consideration is that the generic drugs will be held to the same standard as drugs have been held previously, which is going to require a lot more time, effort, and money to test constantly, and to ensure the standards, once met, are upheld, but it seems a pretty happy problem to have (too many life-saving drugs to test, as opposed to too few).

The bill has only passed its first reading and should be entering its second reading after a series of debates on the subject. The previous time it was promoted, it was killed in the second reading by the conservatives - I don't like to point fingers at political parties, but it was 114 "nays" to 12 "yeas", with every other party voting yes. I emailed my MP to ask him to vote yes, since he voted no last time it was available. (Want to know how your person voted? Want to know who your person is?) Another private member's bill that is creating a lot of waves - it seems they are in vogue lately. Another one to watch with interest until it starts to fidget uncomfortably.  

1 comment:

Legalizeit said...

I don'T know what to think of all this.