Stop “Evergreening” to Accelerate Access to Non-Patented Drugs

October 2004

Dear First Ministers:

RE: Stop “Evergreening” to Accelerate Access to Non-Patented Drugs

While the recently negotiated First Ministers’ National Pharmaceutical Strategy falls short of a full-fledged national universal pharmacare program, the commitments outlined in the Strategy will help more Canadians access affordable medicines.¬¨‚Ć

We are pleased to see access, cost-control and safety identified as core elements of the national strategy.

In particular, the commitment to accelerate access to non-patented drugs is a step that can and should be achieved immediately.

Recommendation 41 of the Final Report of the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada (Romanow Commission) states: 

” The Federal government should immediately review the pharmaceutical industry practices related to patent protection, specifically, the practices of evergreening and the notice of compliance regulations.”¬¨‚Ć

The Report went on to say: 

” A particular concern with current pharmaceutical industry practice is the process of ‘evergreening,’ where manufacturers of brand name drugs make variations to existing drugs in order to extend their patent coverage. This delays the ability of generic manufacturers to develop cheaper products for the marketplace and is a questionable outcome of Canada’s patent law.”

As well, the Competition Bureau said on February 27, 2004:

¬¨‚Ć” A number of court decisions over the last several years regarding what constitutes a relevant patent and the time period during which such a patent can be added have somewhat altered the balance contained in the NOC Regulations between the competing interests of the brand name pharmaceutical patent holders and generic drug companies. Furthermore, I note there is no ready mechanism in the NOC Regulations for compensating consumers affected by delays in the introduction of generic drugs, thereby creating a possible incentive for brand name pharmaceutical companies to strategically use the NOC Regulations to improperly delay generic drug entry.”

Affordable access to drugs is threatened when brand-name drug companies get automatic extensions of their market monopolies simply because they decide to sue a generic drug company. This only delays access to less-expensive non-patented drugs.

As a basic first step to implementing the national pharmaceutical strategy, the federal government must put an end to “evergreening” in the pharmaceutical industry.¬¨‚Ć

This can be done simply by changing regulations and without legislation. 

There is no need for our health-care system to continue to pay for these patent games. 

We encourage you to make this a top priority in your discussions around the National Pharmaceutical Strategy at the upcoming meeting of Health Ministers in B.C. 

(original signed by)

Larry Wagg, President
Congress of Union Retirees of Canada

James Clancy, National President
National Union of Public and General Employees

Al Gorlick, Founder and Chairperson
Jack Pinkus, Past President
Alliance of Seniors to Protect Canada’s Social Programs

Kathleen Connors, National Chairperson
Canadian Health Coalition

Gerda Kaegi, President
Canadian Pensioners Concerned, Inc.

Rudy Lawrence, President
Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of British Columbia

Art Field, President
National Pensioners and Senior Citizens Federation

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