CETA talks moving along...

Author: Alexander Stack Professional Corporation |

An article appeared in the National Post today by John Ivison discussing the Europe/Canada free trade deal talks. The article specifically brings up the pharmaceutical/IP issue as a stumbling block:

One sleeper issue could yet derail the whole process. Most of the negotiations should be encouraged, since they are likely to reduce the costs to consumers on both sides of the Atlantic.

However, the European Union is pressing for intellectual property changes that would give brand name drugs several years more of patent protection, delaying the entry into the market of cheaper generic drugs.

In the House of Commons, NDP MP Peter Julian asked Mr. Van Loan if the government has done any due diligence on what this would mean for provincial drug plans. The answer was equivocal but it is clear any such agreement would increase costs to provinces already battling soaring health costs.

One drug, Pfizer’s Lipitor had annual sales of $1.3-billion in Canada during its last year of patent protection, which ended in July. Generic versions of the drug are now being sold for 25% of that price, which would mean provinces would be paying an extra $1-billion this year if the EU’s rule was in place. The brand-name companies argue this is short-sighted and that Canada will be by-passed when the latest drugs come out if it doesn’t fall into line with the EU on patents. It remains to be seen whether the provinces buy that argument.

As has been noted before, the depth and breadth of any deal relies on the cooperation of the Canadian provinces. On the pharmaceutical issue, even though the European draft language addresses areas of Federal jurisdiction (i.e. the Federal government has the authority to legislate the changes Europe wants without provincial cooperation), it is the provinces who will largely be paying for any extra periods of exclusivity for patent- or data- protected pharmaceuticals. One possible outcome is that pharma/IP issues are sacrificed in a trade - for example, the provinces get a win on pharmaceutical costs in return for the provinces' agreement to open up their procurement processes to European companies.

Its a bit dated, but Cyndee Todgham Cherniak wrote about a month ago that provincial agreement to the EU/Canada deal might be difficult, pointing out that several provincial premiers are on politically shaky ground and may not want to face a trade-related debate.

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