[Ip-health] MSF Urges TPP Countries Not to Abandon Public Health in Bid to Finalize Trade Deal

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Fri Feb 21 05:17:40 PST 2014

*MSF Urges TPP Countries Not to Abandon Public Health in Bid to Finalize
Trade Deal*


 *Despite Minimal Concessions, US Demands Remain Extremely Dangerous to All
Patients' Health Across the Asia-Pacific Region*

 *New York/Singapore, February 20, 2014 *-- As countries prepare for
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations in Singapore this weekend, the
international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without
Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said today that egregious
intellectual property provisions that will greatly impede access to
affordable medicines for at least half a billion people must be removed
before TPP trade deal negotiations are finalized.

"Make no mistake, in terms of health, the TPP remains the most damaging
trade agreement we've ever seen, particularly for patients living in
middle-income countries, where the vast majority of the world's poor people
live," said Judit Rius Sanjuan, U.S. Access Campaign manager for MSF. "This
is a massive, far-reaching trade deal that is putting lives at stake."

The US Trade Representative has suggested it is prepared to give several of
the poorest countries in the negotiations more time to comply with some of
the intellectual property provisions, but ultimately all countries,
including those with very high rates of poverty, will be forced to comply
with these damaging new constraints. Furthermore, the TPP will force all
countries to make changes in their laws to facilitate the extension of
patent monopolies on medicines beyond 20 years, a practice called patent
'evergreening.' It will also create additional barriers to accessing
clinical trial data for a new class of drugs called biologics, greatly
lengthening monopolies in TPP countries, which will prevent lower-cost
versions of medicines from entering the market.

"If passed in its current form, you can say goodbye to patent terms that
expire at 20 years, and hello to even longer monopolies and sky-high drug
prices," warned Rius Sanjuan. "Governments of every TPP country: if you
ever try to challenge a patent or control drug prices, get ready to be sued
for hundreds of millions by pharmaceutical companies. You will be at the
mercy of the commercial interests of multinational pharmaceutical
companies. These are the dangerous terms of the deal you are about to

These are not theoretical concerns, and the worst of the TPP's provisions
will affect all countries, rich and low-income, said Rius Sanjuan. The
government of Canada is currently being sued by U.S. pharmaceutical company
Eli Lilly for $500 million for rejecting two medicine patents. Under rules
of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which are also contained in the
TPP, Eli Lilly and other pharmaceutical companies are allowed to sue
governments when laws designed to protect public health and the public
interest could potentially lower expected profits.

Extension of patent terms beyond 20 years for tweaks to existing medicines
is one of the most concerning provisions in the intellectual property
section of the TPP.  In South Africa, for example, where MSF is treating
people with drug-resistant tuberculosis, 20 percent of the program budget
goes to pay for just one medicine, linezolid, made by Pfizer. A generic
version of this antibiotic is already available in India at a much lower
price, but because of secondary patents in South Africa--where almost
every drug is granted a patent--MSF may have to continue paying a very high
price long after the primary patent expires in South Africa later this
year, forcing long-term rationing of this vitally important medicine.

 "The current system of granting monopoly patent protection for changes
to medicines that do not make products more effective is a perversion of a
system that is supposed to reward true innovation," said Rius Sanjuan.
"Monopoly protection has enabled prices for old anti-asthma and antibiotic
medicines, for example, to skyrocket, while doing little to promote
innovation. Under the TPP, this abuse of the patent system will become the
new global standard."

*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: @joanna_keenan


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