Mr. J. E. Pascoe (Moose Jaw-Lake Centre):
Mr. Speaker, I agree with earlier speakers that this is a very complicated and important piece of legislation. This much was indicated by the minister sponsoring Bill No. C-190, because he required almost an hour and a half to explain all its ramifications. He made a well prepared presentation on behalf of his department in defence of his proposed action to allow easier entrance of foreign produced drugs into Canada.
DEBATES February 13. 1968
To make my position clear, Mr. Speaker, I want to state at the outset, and state emphatically, that I support the intended effect of the bill, which is to make drug prices in Canada as reasonable as possible. I emphasize the words "intended effect of the bill", because what might be considered short term benefits might not in turn produce long term benefits to drug purchasers, drug manufacturers or to the economy of Canada as a whole. Proper legislative enactments to provide drugs at reasonable prices for all Canadians, particularly the elderly and low income groups, will certainly receive my support and I am sure will receive the support of my colleagues on this side of the house. I have received letters from constituents in connection with the present prices of drugs and I have assured the writers that we on this side of the house will do all in our power to see that prices are set at reasonable levels. I should like to repeat the statement I just made. We want to make sure that proper pricing methods are followed and that proper legislative enactments are passed to achieve the desired results. Again I emphasize the word "proper". Perhaps we might make some improvements to the bill before it finally passes.
I was a part time member only of the special committee on drug costs and prices. I had to yield my place on that committee owing to the demands of the standing committee on transport and communications. Being on the committee for only a short time I therefore cannot speak with the authority of the hon. member for Simcoe East (Mr. Rynard), the hon. member for Halifax (Mr. Forrestall), or the hon. member for Wellington-Huron (Mr. Howe) on all the testimony given before the committee. They have put their comments on the record and have made it clear that there are serious doubts that Bill No. C-190 will give definite assurance of long term benefits in the public interest. The hon. member for Wellington-Huron particularly emphasized the absolute necessity to ensure complete safety of all drugs that are made available to the public, especially those drugs that are imported. I will not take up the time of the house to repeat his warnings but I certainly want to bring this matter to the attention of those who will be voting on this bill later in the week.
[DOT] (5:30 p.m.)
I am mainly concerned about the words on the front page of the bill, "An Act to amend the Patent Act and the Trade Marks Act." In
February 13, 1988
this connection I wish to read a short paragraph from a letter I received from the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Canada.
Bill C-190 essentially would abolish normal patent and some trade mark rights as they relate to prescription medicines made in Canada. It has far-reaching implications in that it represents a serious attack on the patent system, a fundamental facet of any competitive society and a matter of significance to the Canadian economy. We believe it might set an unfortunate precedent.
That paragraph emphasizes my concern about what appears to be a dangerous tampering with patent rights in Canada. I am not an expert on patents so I consulted Webster's international dictionary, third edition, and under "patent" I found the following definition:
A government grant of a monopoly right that gives one who invents or discovers a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof the exclusive right for a specific term of 17 years with certain rights of extension to make, use or sell his invention or discovery.
The bill refers to compulsory licensing, and in this regard I consulted the 1965 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Though the paragraph refers to Great Britain, what it says has application in this country.
Since the original object of the patent laws was the establishment of new industries, the main grounds for a grant of a compulsory license are that the patented invention is not being worked within the country-
I underline the words "within the country", -to the fullest practicable extent, or that the demand is not being met on reasonable terms, or is being met by importation in place of home manufacture.
To be fair I must also read the following paragraph that appears in the Encyclopaedia Britannica:
Applications for compulsory licenses relating to food or medicine may be made at any time and without alleging abuse of monopoly. Such compulsory licenses are to be granted unless there is good reason for refusal, and are to be on such terms as will secure that the patented article shall be available to the public on the lowest terms consistent with fair remuneration to the patentee.
I cannot say too much about fair remuneration with regard to patents but, according to certain testimony presented to the committee by the controller of patents, I understand that in these cases the payment of royalties would amount to a mere pittance. From what I have heard and read and received by way of comment in letters and briefs, it seems to me that 27053-422
Patent Act-Trade Marks Act patent rights are an essential incentive to adequate pharmaceutical research in Canada. I hold no brief for the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Canada, and I stress that. Some speakers have suggested that perhaps we are speaking on its behalf. I hold no brief for the association but it is not difficult to share its concern about the effect that Bill C-190, if passed in its present form, will have on future drug research and development in Canada. In its brief the association says:
Bill C-190, which would have the effect of abolishing patents, could never be considered conducive to "continued and increased scientific research in Canada."
The brief goes on to say:
Patents are generally recognized as having a twofold value. They provide an incentive to discovery and encourage the disclosure of scientific information from which other researchers benefit.
In this connection it is fitting to put on record the 1967-68 statement of policy of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. No doubt each member of the house received a copy of that document. In one of its pronouncements on policy the chamber of commerce said, as noted in the P.M.A.C. brief:
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, in its 196768 statement of policy, has urged that the government "implement a review of the Patent Act with respect to its being strengthened so as to encourage research and invention in Canada."
The legislation now before us is based on the idea that Canada can get along without its pharmaceutical industry. I am concerned about that. If Canada becomes dependent on other countries for vital drug supplies as may happen if this bill passes, her national health could be impaired in times of emergency.
I shall put on the record the extent of the pharmaceutical industry in Canada as outlined in the brief from the association: Canada's pharmaceutical industry makes an appreciable and growing contribution to the national economy. It employs over 10,000 Canadians-of whom 2,500 are university graduates-and helps to create jobs for an estimated 25,000 more in firms providing supplies and services for the industry. The member companies of our Association have a total capital investment of nearly $100 million.
The brief goes on to say:
Their exports in 1966, as shown in a recent survey conducted jointly by the Department of Industry and the Association, amounted to some $20 million, a figure which these companies are continually striving to increase. The proposed legislation not only would put an end to any hopes of this export development, but would also further upset Canada's negative balance of payments.
February 13, 1968
Patent Act-Trade Marks Act
I thought I should read those paragraphs into the record because they indicate the extent of the pharmaceutical industry in Canada.
With regard to research, I have just received a copy of the first edition of a pamphlet put out by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Health Sciences. The pamphlet refers to medical research and health sciences, and I think the latter aspect also includes research in drugs. In one part the pamphlet says:
The publication of this bulletin for the benefit of those involved in medical research or interested in the improvement of the research environment in Canada is in response to a growing public and professional awareness of the importance of the health sciences which has been building up in recent years.
A few paragraphs farther on it says:
Unless a more favourable environment for medical research-
I include pharmaceutical research under this heading.
-is provided as a matter of urgency, the skilled manpower on which medical education and health care depend will be inadequate both in quantity and quality.
[DOT] (5:40 p.m.)
In this connection, perhaps I might refer briefly to something which appears in a booklet issued in January by the Department of National Health and Welfare. It contains an article entitled "Measuring Medication Costs" which includes a whole series of price indices, founded on 1949 as the base year. The writer states:
The drugs on the market in 1949 represented the standard of health care of that period. The price of these particular drugs over the years changed only slightly as shown by the consumer price index. Changes have occurred, however, in the drugs actually prescribed by physicians. Instead of using the same drugs as in 1949, physicians are now using many new "wonder drugs" which usually cost more than the older, more established products.
We are then given a list showing how prices have changed. The article goes on:
If physicians did not use any new drugs but continued to prescribe the same medication as in 1949 the average prescription price would have changed very little. Now we can ask the question, why do physicians prescribe new drugs?
The answer is that either the new products are better than the previously existing products or they control or they cure a disease for which there previously was no effective drug treatment. Within the last decade, for example, we have for the first time developed effective drugs to treat glaucoma, fungus infections, mental depression and high blood pressure. The treatment of other diseases has also improved through the introduction of new antibiotics, tranquilizers, vaccines and anti-cancer drugs.
I quote from this article because I believe it is germane to the problem we are now facing. We are bound to be concerned about the new drugs which are becoming available and the cost of research necessary to produce them.
Perhaps I might return to the question of patents. Any abolition of a patent right tends in my opinion to create a perilous precedent which might make it easier to abrogate other rights. I have had some experience in connection with copyright and I believe these two fields are to a certain extent related. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica "copyright" is a term currently used to designate the rights secured by the laws of civilized countries to authors of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works to protect them against unauthorized copying of those works. To bring the situation closer to us, I suggest that tampering with patent rights could open up other areas such as copyright and make them liable to infringement. We have all heard statements at the end of National Hockey League, World Series baseball and Grey Cup games that they cannot be rebroadcast without authorization because there is a copyright protecting the original broadcast. I suggest that copyright and patent laws are in the same category and that changes made in one of these fields could over the years become the thin end of a wedge making it possible to introduce changes in the other.
Perhaps I should offer some suggestions to the minister for his consideration following these remarks on patents. I am sure this matter will be the subject of discussion during the clause by clause study in committee. It has been claimed that drug manufacturers are spending too much on the promotion and distribution of their products. The figure often quoted is 30 cents on the operating dollar. I certainly agree that this is a high figure and that it does add to the cost of drugs to the consumer.
I would remind hon. members that the committee which went into this subject recommended that the food and drug directorate issue a monthly publication to medical doctors outlining the effectiveness of all drugs available at that particular time and commenting on their safety and efficacy. I believe such a publication would be of great value. It would be official and authoritative and it would list all those drugs which the directorate considered to be most effective in particular cases. It would command the attention of
February 13, 1968
all doctors who prescribe medication for their patients. In my view the availability of such a publication would undoubtedly reduce the cost of promotion to pharmaceutical manufacturers. They would not have to use 30 cents of every dollar to advertise the new drugs which they have created through research. I suppose it would still be necessary to employ what they call detail men to call on doctors and talk to them. However, I believe a monthly publication outlining all these drugs would be of great assistance and would cut down the cost of drugs to the public.
I took down one quotation from the minister in the course of the hour and a half during which we listened to him yesterday. He said that during any given interval of time the incidence of disease was far from uniform and those who incurred the highest drug bills because of their disabilities were likely to have incomes substantially below the average.
I agree with this statement. I myself have been contacted by people who have had the greatest difficulty in paying for the drugs they need. In this connection I have a suggestion to make which the minister might well consider. Instead of taking action which would certainly curtail the operations of the pharmaceutical industry in Canada, I suggest that people with incomes substantially below the average should be given special consideration by the government. I am not proposing any form of means test in this connection. The government has taken the position that the plan they introduced for the payment of supplementary pensions to people with low incomes does not involve any form of means test or needs test.
My suggestion is that the minister propose to his colleagues in the government that those receiving supplementary pensions be provided with necessary drugs at minimum cost. Such a course would cost the government far less, in my opinion, than the revenue which would be lost in taxation if the pharmaceutical industry in Canada were curtailed or lost. Perhaps this proposal could be considered in more detail during the committee stage. In the meantime I leave it with the minister to ponder.
[DOT] (5:50 p.m.)
Topic: PATENT ACT-TRADE MARKS ACT AMENDMENTS RESPECTING IMPORTATION OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS