The Columbia Journal
P.O. Box 2633 MPO,
Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada V6B 3W8
Time for a Canadian Pharmaceutical Industry
As the US policy of expansionism and world domination hurtles the
planet towards its destruction, we see an equally calculated
destruction of universal medicare by Canada's democratically elected
The surge in oil prices (also the result of US policy) is pumping an
extra $6 to $8 billion into Alberta's revenues. Ralph Klein--at the
same time--is leading a diversionary attack upon the federal government
with the sham proposal for an expensive drain on the federal coffers
called the National Pharmacare Plan. Klein intends, with his
supporters, like Gordon Campbell, premier of BC, to further disable
Klein is not only betraying the voters of the nation; he is also
selling-out in gigantic style to the US. Alberta--just
reported--charges the US corporations who pump Alberta oil something
like one-third to one-fourth the royalties asked for in, say, the US
and other Western countries.
It also means that Alberta could--if it wished to charge adequate oil
royalties--pay for nearly all medicare in Canada and still be one of
the richest provinces.
Why doesn't that happen, and why is the whole national Pharmacare issue
The answer lies in the tremendous pressure of actual lobbying, of
tireless blandishment, and of the economic, political, and cultural
imperialism of the USA, concentrated without let-up on the governments
of Canada AND on particular people in office or seeking office.
Why don't all the premiers and the Prime Minister, really work to make
medicare the success it could very easily be? The answer to that is
that political leadership in Canada more and more believes its first
loyalty is to the US government and corporate capitalist interests.
As a result, Canadian political leadership spends much of its time
avoiding, falsifying, aborting and undermining policies and initiatives
wanted by the Canadian people and perfectly available to them
financially and structurally.
The second part of the question concerns the provincial premiers’
advocacy of a national pharmacare scheme. Why is it a sham? Roy
Romanow, former Saskatchewan premier and head of the federal health
care commission, came as close as he dared, in a recent speech to
doctors in Toronto, to naming the premiers' initiative a sham.
But even Roy Romanow doesn't grasp the Pharmacare bull by the horns. It
is a sham by its very structure (if implemented), for it means buying
more and more increasingly expensive drugs from the abusive corporate
pharmaceutical monopolies that are profiting monstrously and denying
healthcare supplies to literally billions on the planet.
Tragically (and perhaps intentionally) the premiers' Pharmacare
proposal plays right into the hands of the very worst, largely US,
A real national Canadian pharmacare plan would begin the production of
pharmaceuticals in Canada under a federal/provincial cooperative
operation. It would create employment as well as a growing independence
in pharmaceutical policy.
The government of Brian Mulroney ridiculously extended the patent time
on pharmaceutical drugs to twenty years from ten. That "deal" has
benefited the mostly US-based major drug monopolies by costing the
Canadian medicare system billions of dollars.
Is an independent Canadian pharmaceutical industry possible? According
to a recent CBC interview with a Brazilian official, the Brazilian
government set up its own laboratories and production facilities. It
discovered that it could produce AIDS pharmaceuticals for a small
fraction of the market cost--to no one's surprise.
In addition, it made two more huge discoveries. Using its own
laboratories, Brazil could match many existing medicines for prices
hundreds of times cheaper than the monopoly pharmaceuticals. Secondly,
it found it could develop pharmaceutical drugs for a dramatically
cheaper expenditure than claimed by the pharmaceutical monopoly.
In short, the cost of bringing new drugs and new therapies (and
doubtless, further on, new diagnostic and surgical machinery) to
general use is much less than the big pharmaceutical monopolies claim.
A genuine Canadian pharmacare system built upon Canadian invented and
produced pharmaceuticals (and technical machinery) would dramatically
lower Canadian healthcare costs. In addition, making an end-run around
the monopolies, Canadian production could bring profit to Canada from
abroad even after slashing profit levels to a just measure.
Equally important, Canada could become a lead producer of profit-free
pharmaceuticals for desperate populations on the globe.
A Canadian pharmaceuticals manufactory is a simple, proven idea.
Canada--even more than Brazil--has the wealth, expertise and the eager
young population to carry it out.
Robin Mathews is a
local freelance journalist and long-time public health care advocate.