Toronto Star: Ottawa ‘delinquent’: Lewis

Africa still waiting for cheap drugs, UN envoy says

Liberal bill went into effect, but nothing happened


Canada’s former ambassador to the United Nations Allan Rock remembers trumpeting legislation he helped create to a delegation of African nations early last year, legislation considered a breakthrough that would make this country a major supplier of cheap drugs to developing nations.

“We had a day-long seminar with African states, handed them material, made a presentation, answered their questions, explained it all and asked them to put the medication in the hands of their government,” said Rock, recalling the meeting to talk about the bill, then known as the Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa Act.

Then nothing happened.

Not one pill has left Canada under the legislation meant to make drugs to treat AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and all other diseases affordable to countries unable to make their own. Canada has made available only one AIDS drug, a three-in-one medication made by the Canadian generic firm Apotex Inc., which was approved at the end of July by Health Canada for sale only in other countries.

Yesterday, Stephen Lewis, the United Nations special envoy on AIDS, took the Canadian government to task for its failure to supply any struggling countries with low-cost medications, calling it “delinquent beyond the definition of delinquency.”

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