CETA & Health: Canadians balk at longer drug patents

CETA & Health: Canadians balk at longer drug patents

Postby Oscar » Wed Dec 11, 2013 12:40 pm

CETA Environics Poll: Canadians balk at longer brand-name drug patents: + 80% want public hearings before CETA ratified
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Canadians balk at longer brand-name drug patents

[ www.cmaj.ca/site/earlyreleases/11dec13_ ... ents.xhtml ]

December 11, 2013. Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Nearly two-thirds of Canadians oppose longer patents for brand-name drugs under a proposed trade deal with the European Union, according to a poll commissioned by the Council of Canadians.

Although 73% of respondents to the Environics poll supported the idea of free trade between Canada and the European Union, 65% were against plans to extend drug patents by two years under the coming Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Opposition to this part of the agreement - which may increase drug costs for Canadians by as much as $1.65 billion a year by delaying the release of cheaper generic medicines - cut across party lines, as well as age and geographic groups.

"This is consistent with polls we've done in the past," says Stuart Trew, trade campaigner for the Council of Canadians. "People are uncomfortable with these changes and I think that should be a strong message to the government that they don't have a mandate to make them."

The poll also asked if the federal government should have to hold public hearings across Canada before it can sign and ratify the deal. Some 80% of respondents agreed, with strong support for hearings across the political spectrum.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed on to CETA in principle on Oct. 18, but neither party has made the precise wording of the deal public. Meanwhile, public consultation has been limited to largely one-way technical briefings on highlights of the pact, says Trew. "They weren't even recording questions in the minutes, so there's been no indication that these meetings have had any effect on the negotiations."

Representatives of brand-name pharmaceutical companies have welcomed CETA, saying increased patent protection will compensate for Canada's lengthy drug approval process. They also contend the agreement will stimulate investment and clinical trials in Canada.

But according to a recent Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives briefing , Canada already pays more for drugs than most other countries due to existing "industry-friendly intellectual property policies, which include a generous pricing system and broad protection of brand-name pharmaceuticals."

Meanwhile, Trew says brand-name drug manufacturers have consistently failed to meet past pledges to reinvest 10% of revenues in Canadian research and development. "History tells us there is no guarantee they will meet these new promises, and there's no way to hold them accountable if they don't."

The federal government may reimburse the provinces for any additional costs to stock their formularies as a result of the changes under CETA. But the move may be akin to rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship. Ultimately, Canadian taxpayers will end up footing the bill, and people paying for drugs out-of-pocket or through private insurance will be hit twice, says Trew.

However, there may be potential for push-back at the provincial level, as CETA will work against efforts to contain costs through bulk purchasing and regulation of generic drug prices.

"We'd like to think the federal government will do a public hearing or review," says Trew. "But I think that's more likely to come from the provinces."

Before CETA takes effect, all provinces and territories, as well as the 28 European Union nations, must approve the deal.

The Environics telephone poll surveyed a random national sample of 1003 adults, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

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Majority of Canadians oppose longer drug patents in Canada–EU trade deal

[ http://www.canadians.org/media/majority ... trade-deal ]

Media Release December 5, 2013

Ottawa – Nearly two-thirds of Canadians (65 per cent) oppose longer patents for prescription drugs in the proposed Canada–European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), according to an Environics poll commissioned by the Council of Canadians. Even among people who otherwise “strongly support” the idea of a free trade agreement with the EU, more than half (54 per cent) oppose a deal that extends patents on brand name drugs.

“We already pay more for prescription drugs in Canada than in most other parts of the world, and we should be looking for ways to bring that cost down,” says Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “Instead, the Harper government says it’s almost ready to sign an EU deal that is sure to make prescriptions more expensive for patients and provincial health plans. This makes no sense, and our poll shows there is very little support for it.”

The survey confirmed the results of past polls showing generally high support (73 per cent) in Canada for the idea of a trade deal with the EU. Respondents were then told that CETA “will also extend patents on brand name pharmaceutical drugs by up to two years” and that “it’s estimated this may increase the overall cost of drugs in Canada by over a billion dollars a year by delaying the introduction of cheaper generic versions of drugs.”

This cost estimate is based on a federal government assessment of the potential impact of new patent protections in CETA, as well as a recent study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which suggests additional drug costs of $800 million to $1.65 billion. Recognizing the new costs these changes will create, the Ontario government asked for compensation from the federal government, but this simply transfers the costs from provincial to federal taxpayers, which of course are the same people.

“No matter how you cut it, the public will be paying for longer patents – with our money going straight into the pockets of rich, multinational pharmaceutical companies,” says Trew. “Canada’s intellectual property rights regime already meets or exceeds global standards, and the public clearly doesn’t want any changes.”

The poll also asked if the federal government should have to hold public hearings across Canada before it can sign and ratify the deal. A full 80 per cent of respondents agreed, with strong support for hearings across the political spectrum.

“The Harper government and provinces cannot hide behind general support for an EU deal while ignoring how people feel about what’s in CETA,” says Trew. “The federal and provincial governments must give the public a chance to review the text and to make changes before CETA can be signed.”

The Environics telephone poll, conducted between November 14 and 20 among a national random sample of 1,003 adults, has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20. -30-

For media inquiries:

Dylan Penner, Media Officer, The Council of Canadians, (613) 795-8685
dpenner@canadians.org | http://www.canadians.org/ceta | Twitter: @CouncilOfCDNs
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