TPP will cause unnecessary suffering by making medicines unaffordable, MSF warns

The recently released text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership confirms that the deal contains dangerous provisions that would dismantle public health safeguards enshrined in international law and restrict access to price-lowering generic medicines for millions of people leading to unnecessary suffering for many, the Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warns.

“The TPP is a bad deal for medicine: it’s bad for humanitarian medical treatment providers such as MSF, and it’s bad for people who need access to affordable medicines around the world, including in the United States,” Judit Rius Sanjuan, US manager and legal policy advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign, said.“At a time when the high price of life-saving medicines and vaccines is increasingly recognized as a barrier to effective medical care, it is very concerning to see that the US government and pharmaceutical companies have succeeded in locking in rules that will keep medicine prices high for longer and limit the tools that governments and civil society have to try to increase generic competition.”

“For example, if enacted, the TPP will not allow national regulatory authorities to use existing data that demonstrates a biological product’s safety and efficacy to authorize the sale of competitor products, even in the absence of patents,” Sanjuan added. “The TPP would also force governments to extend existing patent monopolies beyond current 20-year terms at the request of pharmaceutical companies, and to redefine what type of medicine deserves a patent, including mandating the granting of new patents for modifications of existing medicines.”

US consumer advocacy group Public Citizen also criticized the TPP for rolling back improvements on access to affordable medicines and environmental standards that congressional Democrats forced on the George W. Bush administration in 2007.

“Many in Congress said they would support the TPP only if, at a minimum, it included past reforms made to trade pact intellectual property rules affecting access to affordable medicines. But the TPP rolls back that past progress by requiring new marketing exclusivities and patent term extensions, and provides pharmaceutical firms with new monopoly rights for biotech drugs, including many new and forthcoming cancer treatments,” Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, said. “The terms in this final TPP text will contribute to preventable suffering and death abroad, and may constrain the reforms that Congress can consider to reduce Americans’ medicine prices at home.”

The TPP was negotiated in secret for five years without any public review between the US and eleven other Pacific Rim nations: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The agreed text, which will now be submitted to national processes for final signature and ratification, was publicly released last Thursday.

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new Liberal government promised on Friday to hold a “full public debate” before ratifying the deal negotiated and agreed in principle by former PM Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

“I look forward to engaging with Canadians on the TPP agreement,” International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said. “As well, our government is committed to holding a full and open debate in Parliament to ensure Canadians are consulted on this historic trade agreement.”

MSF reminded participating nations that it was not too late to prevent further restrictions on access to affordable medicines in the TPP.

“As the text now goes to national legislatures for final approval, we urge all TPP governments to carefully consider whether the agreed TPP text reflects the direction they want to take on access to affordable medicines and promotion of biomedical innovation,” Ruis said. “If it does not, the TPP should be modified or rejected.”

[Photo Credit: MSF]