[Ip-health] Trans-Pacific trade deal threatens access to affordable medicines: MSF, MAC, TWN, MTAAG+

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Wed Jul 3 01:23:43 PDT 2013

Trans-Pacific trade deal threatens access to affordable medicines

As host to both AIDS conference and TPP trade talks this month, Malaysia
reportedly vows to reject a TPP trade agreement that harms access to
medicines; other countries should follow suit, and Malaysia should be held
to its pledge


Kuala Lumpur, 3 July 2013 – Countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific
Partnership (TPP) Agreement* with the US should follow Malaysia’s lead in
refusing harmful intellectual property proposals and assuring that people
will continue to be able to access affordable medicines in the future,
stressed the Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC), Third World Network (TWN),
Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group (MTAAG+) and the
medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without
Borders (MSF) today at the International AIDS Society conference.

“By hosting an international AIDS conference, Malaysia is demonstrating its
commitment to global health, and as host of the next round of TPP trade
negotiations in just two weeks, Malaysia should solidify this commitment by
firming up its recent pledge not to accept harmful provisions in the trade
deal that will harm access to medicines, including HIV medicines,” said
Edward Low, Director of MTAAG+.  “The Malaysian Minister of International
Trade and Industry Mustapha Mohamed recently said that Malaysia wouldn’t
sign the TPP trade deal if it will cause medicine prices to rise. This is a
very encouraging statement, and we plan to hold him to his word.”

As delegates meet in Kuala Lumpur for the IAS conference, the alarm is
being raised that time is running out to fix the flawed TPP agreement,
which currently contains a number of proposals from the US that, if agreed
upon, will block access to low-cost generic medicines for people in
developing countries. The US, in particular, is pushing hard for countries
to accept intellectual property provisions that will extend monopoly
protection on high-priced pharmaceuticals and delay the entry of affordable
generic medicines into developing countries.

“Most HIV drugs needed by people who have developed resistance to their
first set of medicines are already priced too high for publicly-funded
treatment programs in countries negotiating the TPP,” said Leena Menghaney
of MSF’s Access Campaign.  “As more and more people medically require a new
regimen of HIV drugs, we could be looking at a potential crisis, where
people aren’t able to get the lifesaving treatment they need. If countries
sign up to the TPP agreement that makes access to affordable HIV medicines
more difficult, the HIV response in these countries will be under serious

Several of the provisions being pushed by the U.S. facilitate the practice
of so-called ‘evergreening,’ whereby pharmaceutical companies undermine
access to affordable medicines by using a variety of tactics to extend
monopoly protection on drugs beyond the initial 20-year patent period. For
example, companies obtain multiple secondary patents on a single drug so
that even when patents on the original compound expire, the product is
protected for years by a thicket of patents that prevents procurement of
more affordable generic versions. Countries that sign the TPP will have to
amend their patent laws to abide by whatever provisions are in the final
agreement. If the TPP were signed today with the proposals pushed by the
US, it would be more difficult for countries to limit the abusive practice
of evergreening.

India is one country that limits evergreening through a part of its patent
law called Section 3d, which discourages companies from getting a new
20-year patent on obvious changes made to an existing drug. The April
decision by the Indian Supreme Court against Swiss pharmaceutical company
Novartis’ seven-year legal case against the government reaffirmed the
importance of India’s law for public health.

However, if the TPP measures are introduced, Section 3d-like laws in TPP
countries would be banned, making it much easier for drug companies to
extend their market monopolies and delay the availability of affordable
generic versions of their drugs.

“If countries like Malaysia and Vietnam are part of an agreement that
hinders the availability of affordable generics, people living with HIV who
have exhausted all other treatment options will again face death,” said
Fifa Rahman of MAC.  “In Malaysia, we are already paying some of the
highest prices for HIV drugs among developing countries—the TPP trade deal
could make this bad situation even worse.”

- ends -

* TPP countries are the US, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Brunei,
Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Canada and Mexico.  Japan is joining the
talks shortly.

Joanna Keenan
Press Officer
Médecins Sans Frontières - Access Campaign
P: +41 22 849 87 45
M: +41 79 203 13 02
E: joanna.keenan[at]geneva.msf.org
T: twitter.com/joanna_keenan


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