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June 20, 2003

Pressure Grows on Brand Name Pharmaceutical Companies

The Competition Bureau of Canada has announced it will investigate whether
federal patent rules are driving up health costs by making it easy for large
pharmaceutical companies to keep cheaper no-name brands off the market. This
announcement is the latest in a series of events and activities aimed at
putting pressure on the federal government to change some parts of its
current patent law in order to control brand name drug prices which  have an
extremely negative impact on health care costs in Canada. The CHC website - provides an overview in the first item of its Health Care
Special Update section. Just click

1. In May, the Parliamentary Committee on Industry, Science and Technology
announced its plan to delay discussion of drug patent law and especially the
regulation that allows brand name drug companies which already have a
20-year patent to use a process called "evergreening:" to trigger further 24
month extensions making it difficult for generic drug firms to produce
cheaper versions of brand name drugs. The Canadian Health Coalition
immediately launched a campaign to pressure the Standing Committee to deal
with this crucial issue before the end of the Parliamentary session in June.
Large numbers of Canadians responded immediately  flooding the Standing
Committee with letters, e-mails and telephone calls. In response, the chair
of the Committee convened meetings for June 2-4 to deal with the
controversial item.

2. In May, a coalition of seniors, consumers, unions and public interest
groups including the Canadian Health Coalition and the Canadian Federation
of Nurses Unions presented a formal complaint to the Competition Bureau of
Canada asking the Bureau to investigate anti-competitive practices in the
pharmaceutical industry.

3. The Canadian Health Coalition, the Canadian Auto Workers Retirees and the
Congress of Union Retirees of Canada organized a lobby of seniors to assist
at the hearings on June 2,3,and 4 in Ottawa. 150 CAW Retirees and their
spouses from Windsor, London  and Oshawa/Durham coordinated their efforts
with the CHC in order to have 50 different seniors assist at the Standing
Committee hearings each day. Dean Lindsay, the national coordinator of the
CAW Retired Workers Department also took part in the lobby effort. Each
afternoon the seniors filled the committee room making it very clear to the
MPs on the Standing Committee that they expected the required changes to the
practice of "evergreening" in order to make cheaper drugs available to

On the mornings of June 3 and June 4, the CAW Retirees met individually with
10 of the 18 members of the Standing Committee from all political
parties- some of whom were MPs from the seniors' constituencies. About 80
seniors also met on June 4 for an hour-long discussion of drug issues with
Brian Masse, NDP (Windsor West),  member of the Standing Committee. He was
joined by Joe Comartin, NDP (Windsor-St. Clair). Masse emphasized the
importance of the seniors' presence at the committee hearings. He commented
that "the attendance of the retirees brought a real dynamic to the Standing
Committe proceedings". The seniors from each group evaluated their lobby
efforts. They concluded that the learnings from the December 2002 Medicare
lobby had enabled them to carry out a more effective lobby this time. They
were very appreciative of the detailed discussion with Brian Masse and Joe
Comartin. They committed to ongoing work on medicare and on pharmaceutical

The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology has once again
postponed its decision. It will resume hearings in the fall on the
"evergreening" issue in Canada's drug patent legislation.