[Ip-health] Secret “Fast Track” Trade Bill Likely to Escalate Drug Prices

Ellen Shaffer ershaffer at cpath.org
Wed Jun 10 14:50:58 PDT 2015

*Es**calating Drug Prices Likely from Secret “Fast Track” Trade Bill*

Congress could vote this week on a “Fast-Track” trade bill that would dump
a double whammy on the many Americans whose health and finances are already
hit hard
by the high price of prescription drugs.  Wikileaks and the NY Times
today published
a draft chapter
on drugs, negotiated entirely in secret as part of the Trans-Pacific
Partnership (TPP).

If it approves proposed “Fast Track” rules
Congress would surrender its ability to amend this chapter, and whatever
remaining secret text that the secret negotiations produced.

The leaked trade chapter <https://wikileaks.org/tpp/healthcare/>, entitled
Transparency and Procedural Fairness for Pharmaceutical Products and
Medical Devices, was presented in December, 2014, to the 12 nations
negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  It could derail present
programs that offer access to affordable prescription drugs in the U.S. and
abroad, including Medicare and Medicaid, and stymie future progress.

How to create and produce affordable medicines, and assure wide access to
the resulting products, is a critical, life-and-death concern for both the
public and the drug industry.  A new treatment for Hepatitis C can
transform lives, but the price tag of $80,000 a year will condemn too many
to go without it.  Existing U.S. laws that rely on competition from copycat
generic drugs to achieve affordability will be less effective in the case
of new drugs classified as biologics, which are far harder and in some
cases impossible to copy.  The TPP text reveals threats to existing and
proposed systems that cover and finance access to medicines in the U.S.,
Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere, and will increasingly have to
address these emerging products, including policies on:

·       Direct-to-consumer advertising

·       Rules on the extent and timing of drug industry participation in
government decisions about the selection and pricing of covered
prescription drugs

·       The treatment of medical devices

·       The grounds for a drug company to initiate a trade charge against a
country’s drug coverage and pricing systems

These threats and ambiguities are the inevitable result of misguided
efforts to determine critical health, economic and social policy issues
through the secret process of trade negotiations, dominated by commercial
interests, while explicitly excluding and silencing other experts, consumer
advocates, public officials, and the public at large from the debate. The
few non-industry participants on trade advisory committees are prohibited
from revealing or publicly discussing the contents of privileged
negotiating text.  Such a process cannot succeed in a democratic system.

Open public debate reveals and helps to determine where agreement is
possible, and which issues will remain contentious. It is the only basis
for providing reliable assurance to our trading partners that the
negotiations reflect what the U.S. will actually stick to.

Congress must vote No on Fast Track/Trade Promotion Authority.

- Ellen R. Shaffer, CPATH

Dr. Ellen R. Shaffer, PhD MPH
Asst. Clinical Professor, UCSF
Co-Director, Center for Policy Analysis on Trade and Health/CPATH
P.O. Box 29586
San Francisco, CA 94129-0586
Phone 415-922-6204

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