[Ip-health] Reuters: Pacific trade deal could limit affordable drugs - world health chief

Zack Struver zack.struver at keionline.org
Thu Nov 12 08:52:18 PST 2015


UPDATE 1-Pacific trade deal could limit affordable drugs - world health
(Adds quotes, background, concerns on food and drink industry lobbying)

By Tom Miles

Nov 12 (Reuters) - A massive trade pact between 12 Pacific rim countries
could limit the availability of affordable medicines, the head of the World
Health Organization said on Thursday, joining a heated debate on the impact
of the deal.

Margaret Chan told a conference there were "some very serious concerns"
about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a central plank of U.S.
President Barack Obama's trade policy which still needs to be ratified by
member governments.

"If these agreements open trade yet close the door to affordable medicines
we have to ask the question: is this really progress at all," Chan asked a
conference in Geneva.

The deal's backers, including the United States, Canada, Japan and
Australia, say it will cut trade barriers and set common standards across
40 percent of the world's economy.

But other bodies, including leaders of India's $15 billion pharmaceuticals
industry, have said it could end up protecting the patents of powerful
drugs companies inside the deal area, at the expense of makers of cheaper
generic drugs outside.

"Can you bear the cost of $1,000 for a pill to treat Hepatitis C?," Chan
asked the audience of health experts, academics and diplomats. "Unless we
get these prices down many millions of people will be left behind."

She said no country in the WHO objected to the private sector making a fair
profit, but she was worried about companies influencing decision-making in
health policy.

"I worry about interference by powerful economic operators in the new
targets for alcohol, tobacco and non-communicable diseases, including many
that are diet-related. Economic power readily translates into political

Chan said it was important to find the right balance between encouraging
innovation and keeping drugs affordable, but some recent innovations had
led to "astronomical" price rises.

U.S. unions, lawmakers and interest groups last week also raised concerns
over the text of the deal, setting up a potentially difficult path to
ratification by the United States, the biggest of the 12 partners.

U.S. labour representatives said the agreement contained weak, poorly
worded or unenforceable provisions.

If ratified, the TPP will be a legacy-defining achievement for Obama and
his administration's pivot to Asia, aimed at countering China's rising
economic and political influence. (Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by John
Stonestreet and Andrew Heavens)

Zack Struver, Communications and Research Associate
Knowledge Ecology International
zack.struver at keionline.org
Twitter: @zstruver <https://twitter.com/zstruver>
Office: +1 (202) 332-2670 Cell: +1 (914) 582-1428

More information about the Ip-health mailing list