TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s emergency legislation on the coronavirus crisis gives the health minister powers to circumvent patent law and ensure medical supplies, medication or vaccines can be produced locally.
The measures could be used if demand exceeds supply or when a patent holder cannot produce for Canada, said Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada in a statement on Thursday.
Patent holders would receive “adequate remuneration.”
“These provisions will help ensure that the existence of a patent covering an existing or new vaccine or treatment is not a barrier to securing needed supplies when those supplies cannot be secured from the patentee,” said the ministry.
The ministry said the new provisions applied equally to all patented inventions. They expire on Sept. 30, 2020.
Ventilators could be the legislation’s first target, pharmaceutical consultancy PDCI Market Access said in a note to clients. “The authorizations are not referred to as compulsory licenses in the legislation, however, that is their effect,” the note said.
Canada’s main pharmaceutical lobby group, Innovative Medicines Canada, said it was concerned that the legislation did not require the government to check in with the original manufacturer to see what it can supply before authorizing others to step in.
The bill, passed on Wednesday, accelerates a process that was already possible during public health emergencies, said Richard Gold, a pharmaceutical law expert at McGill University.
“This legislation makes it clear that companies that try to raise prices or assert patents during the crisis will be ignored,” and their patented products supplied by other companies, he said.
On March 19, Israel approved a generic version of AbbVie Inc’s anti-viral Kaletra as a possible treatment for COVID-19, even though the company’s patent does not expire in Israel until 2024. One recent study found the drug was not effective.
(This story adds dropped word in ninth paragraph)
Reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto and Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa; Editing by Peter Cooney