Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Mike McBane and Stuart Trew note that Canada can't afford to sign on to yet another massive giveaway to big pharma:
An Ipsos Reid poll commissioned by the Council and the health coalition and released last week shows that what would normally be high support for a Canada-EU trade deal in principle (81 per cent) bottoms out to only 31 per cent when asked if CETA should extend patent protections for brand name drugs. Canadians clearly recognize the importance of trade to the economy, but they are not comfortable with those parts of CETA that will give more monopoly rights to Big Pharma.

And really, why should they be? This is an industry that can’t seem to make enough money but which consistently spends twice as much (at least) on advertising as it does on new research and development for truly new products. In 2011, according to the Forbes 500 list of richest companies, the top 10 pharmaceuticals makers collected over $74 billion in profits. Pfizer, the richest Big Pharma firm on the list, took home profits of $10 billion.

But as a percentage of sales, brand name R&D funding for innovation is now 5.6 per cent, the lowest rate since 1988, according to the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board’s 2012 annual report. This is despite a promise from the brand name drug sector to the Mulroney government way back when to spend 10 per cent of sales consistently on new product development in return for patent extensions and other new protections.

If these firms are not living up to that promise today, should we trust them to live up to it after Canada signs this new trade deal with the EU?
-  Daniel Schwartz figures out how Jason Kenney may have used a privacy loophole to send out his creepy e-mail to LGBT rights supporters: if the petition supporting Alvaro Orozco went to Kenney's parliamentary e-mail address, it wouldn't be subject to the same protection that would apply if it went only to his department.

- Which is to say that much as I agree with her diagnosis that the Harper Cons are undermining democracy, Carol Goar's suggestion to try to get the attention of Con MPs may only provide them with information they can use to harass or manipulate voters as they see fit. (Instead, I'd suggest that the "political activism" option deserves rather more attention than Goar gives it.)

- Meanwhile, Lawrence Martin identifies the same problem while fearing there's not much of a solution to be found.

- Finally, Susan Riley theorizes that the Cons will eventually accept carbon pricing. And while I'm not so optimistic, I'd have to agree with Riley's view as to what it will take for that to happen: if and only if the oil sector itself demands greenhouse gas emission regulation, then the Cons will establish the weakest system anybody is prepared to accept as sufficient.

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