[Ip-health] In lead-up to RCEP trade deal negotiations in China, MSF urges countries not to trade away access to medicines

leena menghaney leenamenghaney at gmail.com
Fri Oct 14 00:57:17 PDT 2016

14 October 2016 – As negotiators for the Regional Comprehensive Economic
Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement prepare to meet in Tianjin, China, from
17-21 October, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)/Doctors Without Borders urges
the 16 negotiating countries to reject any terms in the deal that will harm
access to medicines.  Countries should uphold the recommendations of the
recent report issued by the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on
Access to Medicines, which warns of the harmful effects that trade
agreements can have on access to medicines if certain terms are included.

The countries in the RCEP agreement include India – known as ‘the pharmacy
of the developing world’ for its export of affordable generic medicines –
as well as Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the ten
ASEAN countries.

“Hundreds of thousands of people diagnosed with HIV and tuberculosis in MSF
projects are today alive and healthy, thanks to affordable Indian generic
medicines. This would not have been possible without the progressive health
safeguards in India’s patent system that protect and encourage generic
competition”, said Peter Paul de Groote, General Director of MSF India. “We
call on the countries negotiating the RCEP agreement to remove all harmful
provisions from this trade deal that could jeopardise access to lifesaving,
affordable medicines sourced from India. Millions of lives across the
developing world are at stake in this trade deal.”

The leaked draft of the RCEP agreement reveals that Japan and South Korea
have proposed provisions that extend pharmaceutical corporations’ patent
terms and introduce the worst form of monopolies on clinical trial data.
The enforcement provisions are a blank cheque for abuse, with numerous
provisions that will prevent the flow of generic medicines from producer to

One problematic provision is data exclusivity – a legal protection that
blocks more affordable generic versions of medicines from being registered
and available in a country, even when there are no patent barriers. In
Jordan, for example, where data exclusivity was introduced as part of the
US-Jordan Free Trade Agreement, a study found that between 2002-2006, 81 of
the 103 medicines registered and launched since 2001 had no generic
competition as a consequence of data exclusivity, and that prices for these
medicines were up to 800% higher than in neighbouring Egypt.

“We’ve seen affordable generic medicines being pushed out from the market
and prices skyrocket when a country grants data exclusivity” said Jessica
Burry, Pharmacist for MSF’s Access Campaign.“Negotiators for the RCEP
agreement shouldn’t simply hand pharmaceutical corporations a backdoor way
to charge exorbitant prices for longer.”

While any harmful intellectual property provisions accepted in the
agreement would be detrimental for all negotiating countries, India’s
inclusion in the agreement is cause for particular concern. India’s generic
pharmaceutical industry is a lifeline for millions of people around the
world, especially for people in developing countries. Today, 17 million
people living with HIV are on lifesaving treatment thanks to affordable
generic HIV medicines produced in India. Two-thirds of all medicines that
MSF purchases to treat people with HIV, tuberculosis and malaria are
generic medicines produced in India.

If India signs up to a bad deal for access to medicines in the RCEP
agreement,its production and export of generic medicines will be
threatened.The world looks to India to provide the affordable generic
medicines and vaccines required to address emerging public health
challenges, including drug-resistant tuberculosis, viral hepatitis,
non-communicable diseases and anti-microbial resistance.

“The recent report by the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Access
to Medicines clearly indicates that bilateral and regional trade agreements
with heightened intellectual property protection and enforcement endanger
countries’ efforts to ensure access to medicines and run counter to their
human rights obligations,” said Rohit Malpani, Director of Policy &
Analysis for MSF’s Access Campaign. I hope the countries negotiating the
RCEP trade agreement have paid attention to this report’s recommendations
and will think twice before signing a deal that will be bad for access to

Leena Menghaney
Mobile: 9811365412

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