One Last Word on C-398

Diogenes's picture

Last Wednesday night, Bill C-398 was defeated in the House of Commons by a free vote of 148-141.

Seven Conservative members voted for the bill. The Liberals, NDP, Bloc, and Green party all voted unanimously for the bill except for those individual members who didn't vote. I will let others debate how free this vote really was.

It's unknown (by this writer at this time) how the didn't vote group is split between abstains and wasn't there for some reason.

The Liberal didn't vote members included Justin Trudeau. I'd like to hear his answer on this now that the dust has settled and the whole #fixCAMR issue is dead (Yes, yes, yes!!!).

My interest in this bill began 8 months ago, when I decided to check out the Calgary price of the prescription drugs I use. Calgary is my hometown. I lived there for almost 50 years.

I live in the Netherlands now, have for a bit over 5 years.  I've been informed by Elections Canada that I can't vote in federal elections anymore. Not that this matters, because even when I did have that right, Elections Canada did less than nothing to honor or enable that right. Oops sorry, wrong blog.

There are two different drugs that I use. Both are generic. This means the 20 year patents on each have expired, at least in Europe. I use generic sumatriptan (aka Imigran) in two different forms: pill and injection.

I do needles, like a junkie, except I jab them in my leg. Try to imagine how much I like doing this. It gives no pleasure, never has, but offers total relief every time in under 8 minutes. Pills take 40 minutes. I only use the injections when I am desperate. I digress.

So 3 different scripts, 2 different generic drugs. Admittedly, a very small sample. The Calgary prices for this sample ranged from 2.5 x more expensive to 11 times more expensive than in Europe.

These numbers are so crazy, so bizarre, that I figured the local  Safeway pharmacy (which happened to be the closest pharmacy to Mom's house) had a computer glitch or something. I was wrong.

Canadians have some of the highest priced generic drugs in the world. Most Canadians (85% or so) have a plan - i.e. company insurance or provincial or federal coverage. They don't pay and they don't care.

Canada has also had a compromised patent protection law for one kind of patent - pharmaceutical medicines - for almost 40 years. This has allowed the generic drug manufacturing sector to prosper

The Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association (CGPA) membership list is a small one dominated by a couple of giants. They mainly specialize in patent litigation.  The scientists and medical researchers in the CGPA member companies are good at figuring out what the active ingredient really are and then winning appeals in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Canada's Research Based Pharmaceutical membership is large in numbers (50+) but rather small in influence. Their membership list kind of resembles a trade show of sales people at a medical convention. For many of them in Canada, that is an accurate description. Canada has been hostile territory to international patent holders for a long time.

This should come as no surprise. The CGPA has done a remarkable job at convincing Canadians that the generic drug industry in Canada (tah-dah) is saving Canada (and the world) from those greedy European innovative patent-protected drug company bastards whose only interest is profits.

Canada's belief in the merits Bill C-398 is testimony to this line of thinking. The majority of Canadians were convinced the C-398 fairy tale of amending Canada's Patent laws would save millions of lives and not cost a penny. Why did the rest of the world just NOT get it?


Make no mistakes. The CGPA are the BIG PHARMA in Canada. They do whatever it takes to sell their product or get the edge.  And they are very good at it.

My own KILL BILL 398 campaign began after I discovered this profoundly stupid piece of legislation had resurrected itself once again as another private members bill.

To my horror, Members of Parliament were standing up in the House of Commons with petitions from across Canada demanding that we amend Canada's Patent laws again, which, after a long and tortured history, were almost back up to world standards.

My email campaign consisted of sending an e-mail to 305 MP's, in blocks of 10, grouped by region and party.

So 31 emails were sent, 10 MP's at at time. It took a bit of time because 305 separate cut and paste operations from the website were necessary. I also took the liberty of using the openParliament photo gallery for these blogs.

Conservative and opposition members received their own version of the email, as did Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I did not bother Andrew Scheer, the Speaker of the House. It would have been a sheer waste of time on more than one level, I'm sure.

I received only 3 non-automated responses (if a reply was addressed me by name, it was regarded as non-automated). The low response rate was a bit of a surprise because past experience has been much better. Just a few years back, even Rob Anders at least wanted to know here I lived before not responding to my question about proroguing parliament.

Stephen Harper's office responded immediately, with assurances that my email had been forwarded to the Minister of Industry, Christian Paradis.

The Honourable Christian Paradis is also the Minister of Bullshit Agriculture. I never heard back from Paradis. No surprise really.

Jim Hillyer's office also responded but noted that constituents are first priority. The address and phone number of the constituency office was included.

The only MP who really responded was Hedy Fry and it was a great response. She stated her support for the bill, gave me the reasons why, but emphasized that she had reservations about it and felt is should go before committee before being made law.

I would vote for Hedy Fry in a heartbeat now (that is, if I was actually allowed to vote). She is a doctor. She knows what she is talking about; I trust her judgment and I love her passion. I replied with a warm thank-you and good wishes.

This KILL BILL campaign even convinced me that I had to join Twitter, so desperate was I to get the message out. This was not easy for me. One of my favorite movies of all times is "The Lives of Others". Ever since watching it I have this thing about being followed. Vic Toews may be watching.

I'm not about to suggest I had anything to do with the outcome here, but the vote on C-398 was close. I can only hope that more than 3 MP's read that email and maybe just changed their minds, abstained, or whatever. It could have gone either way.

I'm just happy at the way it turned out.