A palliative gesture

Published: Tuesday 15 June 2004

Canada is on the verge of becoming the first nation to honour a World Trade Organization (wto) pledge on making available cheap generic drugs for hiv/aids-afflicted people in developing countries. The Canadian House of Commons unanimously approved a bill (c-9) that would amend the country's patent laws. The proposed legislation will empower the government to override patents and allow certain pharmaceutical manufacturers to produce and export generic drugs, including anti-retroviral drugs, for use in developing countries.

As per the bill, about 50 countries are to receive generic drugs at a fraction of their costs prevalent in Canada. Some leading international aid groups, however, remain critical as they feel it is too friendly to commercial pharmaceutical giants. Others feel that the bill is one of a handful that the current Canadian dispensation under Paul Martin is pushing through to clear the way for a snap general election.

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