Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Debate Log 26 April 2011: Today's Opening Statement - A Rant About The Cost of Drugs

Speaking to seniors, today I made a series of statements about healthcare and digital privacy. It was requested that I put these statements up for a broader audience, and I thought that it might be a good idea to give it a wider audience. Credit should go to The Hill Times excellent article on the subject as a partial source of inspiration.


In the last five years Canada has been the world’s third most expensive country for brand-name drugs. Why?
In 1987, the Canadian government passed Bill c-22, which extended patent protection from 17 to 20 years. The drug companies received this benefit as the result of their agreement to spend 10% of income on research and development. The speculation was that if Canada increased prices and extended patent terms, then they might reap some R&D benefits. The Patented Medicines Price Review Board was established to watch the industry, and set a cap for pricing with a bias towards pharmaceutical companies.
The prices of these drugs increased and while at first there were significant investments in Research and Development, these investments have been shrinking significantly since 2001, down to 7.5% in 2009.  At the same time, since the drug companies have no incentive to sell their drugs much cheaper than the high cap, drug prices remain as high as ever.
We have an aging population, which needs and will continue to need affordable access to drugs.  Is it acceptable for drugs to cost more than ever, while investment ratios fall?
Let’s stop rewarding these companies for their broken promises. Let’s restrict the patent monopoly, opening it up to more generics, and giving Canadians a multi-billion dollar break in artificial inflation. We can even afford to take some of the money saved, and re-invest it in Canadian Research and Development.
The privacy of Canadians is of chief concern to the Pirate Party. Each year new Canadians go online and find themselves unintentionally submitted to invasions of privacy. There are obvious concerns with Facebook, but did you know that if you have a Facebook profile, and your friend plays a Facebook game, that this game can then access not just their information, but yours as well? Did you know that GPS manufacturers and developers of applications for mobile devices like cellphones can sell the movement data that they collect to third parties? These provisions are wrapped-up in End User License Agreements and Opt-In clauses that most users simply aren’t aware of. We need to protect Canadian privacy, we need to improve consumer law, we need to add a new statute to explicitly disallow these abusive and intrusive terms of use.
A letter sent to your children or grandchildren should not be opened/copied/read by anyone except that family member. So let’s provide the same legal protections afforded to paper mail, to email. Right now not only can companies read and copy your email, the Canadian government is asking for more access to your communications internet surveillance bills.   The Conservatives have promised to bundle and pass these bills within 100 days of taking office. They allow, without court oversight or criminal charges, real-time monitoring of your Internet connection, the government to listen to your conversations. Sweeping, expensive, unjustified invasion of individual Canadian’s privacy. I find it extraordinarily ironic that the same government which struck down the long-form census for its cost and privacy concerns, could then turn around and say “we want to see what you do online.” Online there is mail, address books, digital phones, radio, television, all through one critical path – under these bills, your communications are all under scrutiny. Unjustified, unwarranted, invasive, reckless, and expensive.  I stand against these bills.

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