The Drug Company Eli Lilly is taking the sovereign state of Canada to court under North American Free Trade Agreement rules. They claim that Canadian Courts were wrong to allow the production of generic versions of two medications, Olanzapine and Atomoxetine which were developed by Eli Lilly under the names Zyprexa and Straterra. The former is an anti-psychotic and the latter effective in treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
In their case against Canada the corporation uses articles of the NAFTA to argue that they are being discriminated against and their investments in intellectual property have suffered. Eli Lilly’s challenge to the Canadian Courts will be via a system of arbitration through secretive tribunals. If successful they will win damages of over half a billion Canadian dollars, force the Canadian Parliament to change the law and ensure that Canadian health services pay more for pharmaceutical products.
This case is a first time that, in order to protect patents, a pharmaceutical company has used investor privileges which exist in the NAFTA agreement. These procedures allow foreign investors to operate outside of national court systems, in effect placing them above the law.
The Public Citizen website recently reported on a survey of 42 investor-state legal cases taken against NAFTA nations. $28 billion is being sought by corporations. Many of these claims would not be allowed to progress in the courts of individual countries. Even in the United States foreign investors have more rights than local US businesses. The US is trying to impose such measures in other agreements such as the proposed transatlantic and transpacific trade agreements.