Bill C-398 proposed allowing generic-drug manufacturers to legally sell much-needed drugs to developing countries that can't afford brand-name equivalents. This bill would have alleviated enormous suffering and saved the lives of potentially millions of people fighting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
But quoting vague trade concerns, the Stephen Harper government used its majority to defeat this private member's bill. Experts say the trade argument is specious, and the result is that countless people will suffer and die. The people affected might be far away, they might look different from many of us, but their suffering and deaths are real, are human and will be directly attributable to the actions of these elected MPs.
In 2008, there were 1.8 million deaths by HIV and 1.7 million by TB. Malaria kills one million children a year. Generic drugs can cost a fifth that of brand-name equivalents, which means that five times the people can be treated for the same cost. And Canada was not risking an untested program - Unitaid works with big pharma to distribute generics to 70 countries around the world.
There is something about shared humanity that seems missing here, something called conscience. This bill would not cost Canada anything and even the drug companies that hold these patents had agreed to this bill.
With no justifiable reason to withhold support for bill C-398, these Conservative MPs have brought great shame to Canada.
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