Intellectual Property Rights and the Canadian Pharmaceutical Marketplace: Where do we go from here?

Joel Lexchin
Research Summary: 

Patent protection for prescription drugs has a long and contentious history in Canada. Bills C-22 and C-91, passed as part of Canada's commitment to various trade deals, first weakened and then abolished compulsory licensing. In order to decide on a future course of action that Canada should take on intellectual property rights (IPRs), it is useful to review downstream effects that resulted from C-22 and C-91. This article examines changes to employment, Canada's balance of trade in pharmaceuticals, investment in research and development, and drug expenditures. The author then reviews the arguments advanced by the pharmaceutical industry in favor of stronger protection for IPRs, the recent complaints made against Canada at the World Trade Organization regarding pharmaceutical IPRs, and the continuing argument about the "evergreening" of patents. Also discussed are the second-draft text agreement of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, which will, if implemented, have significant repercussions for pharmaceutical IPRs in Canada, and some ways in which patents distort the marketplace for drugs. The article concludes with some alternative recommendations on the future of IPRs.