[Ip-health] As Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations re-start, MSF says still time to fix fatal flaws for access to medicines

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Tue May 20 03:06:22 PDT 2014

*As Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations re-start, MSF says still time to
fix fatal flaws for access to medicines*

*Call comes as comments of US President illustrate disconnect with actions
of US negotiators*


*Singapore/New York, 19 May 2014* – As ministers from 12 countries gather
in Singapore next week for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade
negotiations, international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans
Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) urges countries to prioritise
efforts to fix the serious threats to access to medicines in the draft

The call comes in the wake of US President Barack Obama’s tour of Asian
countries last month, where he acknowledged “we’ve got to find a way to
make sure that [medicines are]  available to folks who simply can’t afford
it as part of our common humanity.”  But US trade negotiators have in fact
taken a hard line in the opposite direction, abandoning previous
commitments by the US government that allow developing countries to retain
safeguards in their national laws to respond to public health needs,
including affordable medicines.

“It’s pretty simple; the TPP as it stands is a bad deal for access to
medicines”, said Judit Rius Sanjuan, US Manager and Legal Policy Adviser
for MSF’s Access Campaign. “At a time when countries are grappling with
skyrocketing healthcare costs, it’s outrageous that the provisions in the
TPP would increase the cost of medicines even further, leaving millions
without affordable access.”

Problematic intellectual property rules that would block or delay access to
affordable generic versions of medicines – including “data exclusivity” for
biologic medicines and weaker patentability criteria – remain in the draft
negotiating text. By insisting on these provisions, US trade negotiators
are abandoning the hard-fought ‘May 10 agreement’ that permanently exempted
less prosperous countries from some of the most harmful provisions and was
supposed to hold true for all future trade agreements.

“The USTR is reneging on a prior US commitment on access to medicines for
developing countries even as President Obama has pledged that the TPP
should make medicines affordable and available”, said Rius Sanjuan. “With
no clear end to the negotiations in sight, countries must take a stand and
remove provisions that will harm access to medicines; the damaging clauses
in question could literally mean the difference between life and death for
people who can’t afford high-priced medicines.”

The US-proposed time-limited exemptions for a few of the poorest countries
– where some provisions wouldn’t be implemented until a certain date or
conditions are met – are a feeble attempt to distract from the fact that
the vast majority of TPP countries will be forced to implement the
provisions immediately, including increasingly cash-strapped middle-income
countries who can ill-afford to lock in high prices for medicines.

“If the US proposal is accepted, the poorest countries would be forced to
limit access to affordable medicines long before their public health needs
are under control,” said Rius Sanjuan. “The fact remains that no country,
rich or poor, should accept limitations on its sovereign ability to ensure
medicine is accessible and affordable for all those who need it.”

Adding to strong opposition from dozens of members of US Congress, Nobel
award-winning economists and a range of civil society and patient groups in
many TPP countries, UNITAID—a global health initiative hosted by the World
Health Organization (WHO) that supports access to medicines and
diagnostics—recently heavily criticised the proposed TPP agreement for
restricting developing countries’ ability to ensure that trade priorities
don’t impede on public health.
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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