[Ip-health] MSF: TPP could choke off patient access to affordable generic medicines

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Mon Jul 15 01:51:06 PDT 2013

*Trans-Pacific trade agreement could choke off patient access to affordable
generic medicines*


 *Kuala Lumpur, 15 July 2013* – As negotiations for the Trans-Pacific
Partnership (TPP) Agreement* move to Malaysia this week, Médecins Sans
Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) urges negotiating countries to
remove terms that could block people from accessing affordable medicines,
choke off production of generic medicines, and constrain the ability of
governments to pass laws in the interest of public health.

“Just prior to hosting an international AIDS conference two weeks ago, the
Malaysian government made an important pledge to reject harmful provisions
in the TPP trade deal that will increase medicine prices for Malaysians,
who already pay some of the highest prices for HIV drugs among developing
countries,” said Fifa Rahman of the Malaysian AIDS Council. “We need all
negotiating countries to not only make the same strong public pledge to
protect public health, but also to ensure that the technical details of the
deal truly fulfil their principled commitments to global public health.”

With negotiators under pressure to finalise a deal, time is running out to
fix the flawed TPP agreement, which currently contains a number of United
States proposals that will extend monopoly protection on high-priced
pharmaceuticals and delay the entry of affordable generic medicines.
Restrictive intellectual property provisions could seriously constrain the
role that pharmaceutical producers across Asia currently play in providing
affordable medicines to both developed and developing countries; for
example, by putting up new patent barriers that restrict the production and
distribution of generics.

“The critically important role that many Asian countries have in supplying
both generic medicines and the active pharmaceutical ingredients needed to
produce drugs, is in jeopardy because of new restrictions proposed in the
TPP,” said Judit Rius, US Manager of MSF’s Access Campaign. “The TPP
threatens to put a stranglehold on the world’s supply of affordable
treatments, with dire consequences for patients, treatment providers, and
pharmaceutical producers in developing countries.”

In addition, several of the provisions being pushed by the US facilitate
the practice of so-called ‘evergreening,’ where 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 included, it will be extremely challenging 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 modifications made to an existing drug that do not
improve therapeutic efficacy. The decision, in April this year, 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, similar public-health oriented
laws, such as Section 3d, would not be allowed in TPP countries, making it
much easier for drug companies to extend their market monopolies and delay
the availability of affordable generic versions of their drugs.

“Just two weeks ago, health activists at the International AIDS Society
conference raised the alarm about how the TPP could raise the price of
life-saving HIV medicines, and the International AIDS Society president
responded by reiterating that the ‘provision of cheap generic drugs has
been the cornerstone of many countries’ success in responding to the
HIV/AIDS epidemic,’” said Rius. “The IAS president further urged TPP
negotiating countries to ‘consider public and individual health first and
put profits second’ and called for a more transparency in the negotiations
and, importantly, a ‘public health exception that will allow all countries
to sustain their current access to life-saving drugs.’”

“The time for negotiators to fix the TPP is now, in this round of talks,
before political pressure escalates and a deal that is bad for public
health is sealed in the interest of time.”

- ends -

* TPP countries currently are the US, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru,
Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Canada and Mexico.  Japan is joining
the last day of talks for this negotiating round, and will participate
fully in future rounds. Other countries have indicated their interest. Even
more alarming, negotiators have said the TPP will be the template for
future trade agreements across the globe, setting a damaging precedent that
could affect many more countries.

*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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