[Ip-health] As clock ticks toward TPP deadline, MSF says negotiators must fix most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Tue Mar 5 03:24:49 PST 2013

*As clock ticks toward Trans-Pacific trade pact deadline, negotiators must
fix most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines.*


*New York – 4 March 2013* – As closed-door talks for the Trans-Pacific
Partnership (TPP) Agreement resume in Singapore this week, international
medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans
Frontières (MSF) calls on the U.S. government to end its stall tactics and
revise its proposals for what otherwise promises to be the most harmful
trade deal ever for access to medicines in developing countries.

The TPP negotiations, which currently involve eleven Asia-Pacific
countries, are being conducted in secret, but leaked texts reveal the most
aggressive intellectual property (IP) measures ever suggested in a trade
deal with developing countries.  The U.S. proposals threaten to roll back
internationally-agreed public health safeguards and would put in place
far-reaching monopoly protections that keep medicine prices high and out of
the reach of millions in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Too many people already die needlessly because the medicines they need are
too expensive or do not exist, and we cannot stand by as the Trans-Pacific
Partnership threatens to further restrict access to medicines in developing
countries,” said Dr. Unni Karunakara, International President of MSF.   “We
are gravely concerned about countries like Thailand, where MSF started
treating HIV/AIDS more than a decade ago and then transitioned its programs
to local authorities with the confidence that they would be able to
continue providing lifesaving treatments.  Now Thailand is on the cusp of
joining a dangerous deal that could jeopardize its ability to maintain, let
alone scale up, vital, life-saving health programs for its people.”

Furthermore, U.S. negotiators have said the TPP will be a template for its
future trade agreements across the globe, setting a damaging
precedent.  Despite
widespread opposition to its current proposals, including from other
negotiating countries, the U.S. has failed to put forth any alternative
text, essentially running out the clock so countries may be forced to
accept its original demands in order to meet the announced October 2013

The proposed IP rules would grant the pharmaceutical industry a
wide-ranging set of legal mechanisms designed to prolong monopoly
protection for medicines and delay the availability of more affordable
generic versions.  These demands represent a complete repudiation of the
U.S. government’s own 2007 bipartisan trade policy, which promised to scale
back some of the harshest IP provisions in trade deals with developing

One proposed TPP provision would require governments to grant new 20-year
patents for modifications of existing medicines, such as a new forms, uses
or methods, even without improvement of therapeutic efficacy for patients.
Another provision would make it more expensive and cumbersome to challenge
undeserved or invalid patents; and yet another would add additional years
to a patent term to compensate for administrative processes.  Taken
together, these and other provisions will add up to more years of
high-priced medicines at the expense of people needing treatment, who must
wait longer for access to affordable generics.

Meanwhile, provisions in the proposed investment chapter would give
pharmaceutical companies the right to sue governments for instituting any
regulation that reduces their expected profits, using private tribunals
that circumvent a country’s judicial process.  U.S. pharmaceutical company
Eli Lilly is using similar provisions in NAFTA to demand $100 million from
the Canadian government for invalidating one of its patents, claiming,
among other things, that the company’s expected profits were “expropriated”
when the patent was overturned.

“Despite paying lip service to the idea of balancing public health with
trade interests, the U.S. government has yet to revise its demands for
harmful provisions that will obstruct access to affordable generic
medicines,” said Judit Rius Sanjuan, U.S. manager for MSF’s Access Campaign.
“Countries negotiating the TPP must prevent harmful provisions from being
shoe-horned into the final deal. The U.S. and its TPP partners must take
their public health commitments seriously and agree to a trade agenda that
promotes both innovation and access to medicines.”


*For additional information, please view MSF's February 2013** TPP briefing
note -
visit** **msfaccess.org/tpp for updates.*


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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