[Ip-health] terrible WP editorial on TPP and medicines

Mohga Kamal-Yanni mkamalyanni at Oxfam.org.uk
Fri Feb 6 07:36:25 PST 2015

Terrible Washington Post editorial today ? evidence that the White House 
is being very aggressive about pushing to get TPP done and passed! It 
seems that CSOs in the TPP affected countries and globally need to act now

Critics? concerns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership are overblown
By Editorial Board February 4 at 8:55 PM
AS THE Obama administration and a ­Republican-majority Congress work 
toward eventual approval of the ­Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement 
between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations, opponents of the 
proposed pact are issuing increasingly shrill warnings. The latest is that 
the deal will endanger not only U.S. jobs but also U.S. health care ? and 
health care around the world. According to the critics, U.S. efforts to 
protect the pharmaceutical industry?s ­intellectual-property rights and 
commercial interests could result in higher drug prices and lower access ? 
not only along the Pacific Rim but also in the United States. The TPP 
means ?worse health and unnecessary deaths,? Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel 
laureate in economics, warns.
Well, don?t believe the hype. The United States already has free-trade 
agreements, including chapters on pharmaceuticals, with several of the TPP 
countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Peru, Chile, Mexico and 
Singapore), so the additional integration under the new deal would not 
change the status quo dramatically. It?s true that, as critics say, 
President Obama?s trade negotiators are shooting for the 12 years of data 
protection, and higher prices that come with it, that developers of 
cutting-edge biologic medicines enjoy under U.S. law. They?re unlikely to 
get it, because the maximum term in the other TPP countries is eight 
years. A compromise is already under discussion that would finesse the 
issue while allowing the only truly poor TPP country, Vietnam, quicker 
access to cheaper ?bio-similar? versions of the drugs.
The other accusation is that the United States is trying to use TPP as a 
battering ram to bring down the prevailing drug-price controls in 
countries with national health insurance, such as Australia. It?s true 
that the United States seeks due process and transparency for U.S. drug 
makers that want inclusion in these countries? state-controlled systems, 
but this is a far cry from undermining those politically popular systems ? 
which other TPP countries would never allow anyway. Still less plausible 
is that TPP rules in this regard could set a precedent to weaken the 
United States? own bulk-pricing schemes for drugs in Medicaid or the VA 
health-care system, as the opponents allege.
The United States, and the world, desperately needs medical innovation, 
but the difficult fact is that it costs money ? billions of dollars 
sometimes ? to develop effective new drugs. One way to incentivize that 
investment is to offer companies a temporary government-guaranteed 
monopoly on commercial exploitation of their discoveries. Obviously, 
there?s a trade-off: Drug prices must be high enough to encourage 
risk-taking but not so high as to limit access or bankrupt insurance 
systems. The United States, which accounts for 4.5 percent of the world?s 
population but 39 percent of global spending on pharmaceuticals, probably 
subsidizes health systems in Europe and elsewhere. The robust 
intellectual-property rights and relatively higher prices U.S. drug firms 
enjoy in their domestic market enable them to sell medicine in 
price-controlled markets abroad. No doubt that system is imperfect, but 
the TPP is best understood as a realistic effort to make it work better.
Read more about this topic:
The Post?s View: The Trans-Pacific Partnership can help the U.S. counter 
China?s expansion
David Ignatius: A breakthrough on trade in Asia
The Post?s View: Momentum for the Trans-Pacific Partnership needs to be 
The Post?s View: Trans-Pacific Partnership and all free trade deals help 
the United States

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