[Ip-health] MSF: RCEP trade deal negotiators must reject terms that would harm access to medicines

Joanna Keenan joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Tue Dec 6 08:07:25 PST 2016

RCEP trade deal negotiators must reject terms that would harm access to


*Geneva/Jakarta, 5 December 2016* – As negotiators from the 16 countries in
the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) meet in Tangerang,
Indonesia, starting today, international medical humanitarian organisation
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), along with other health groups, reiterated
concerns about harmful intellectual property provisions in the proposed
agreement that would increase market monopolies for pharmaceutical
corporations and delay or block access to affordable generic medicines.

With ratification and implementation of the highly controversial
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement increasingly in doubt,
countries in the Asia-Pacific region are focusing on the RCEP trade
agreement, which contains similarly damaging provisions for access to
medicines as the TPP.

“With the TPP trade agreement on life support – and the plug expected to be
pulled any time now – RCEP could be the new benchmark for the ‘worst-ever
trade agreement for access to medicines’”, said Loon Gangte, Coordinator,
International Treatment Preparedness Coalition South Asia. “The potential
inclusion of heightened intellectual property provisions in RCEP could
endanger millions of people around the world who rely on generic
competition in India to deliver affordable, life-saving medicines.”

Treatment providers such as MSF, patient groups, and civil society
following the developments of the RCEP negotiations are concerned in
particular that countries such as Japan and South Korea, will now increase
pressure to ensure many provisions that expand monopolies on medicines are
included in the RCEP agreement.

These proposed provisions go far beyond the World Trade Organization’s
international requirements for intellectual property and serve to extend
pharmaceutical corporations’ patent terms and introduce additional market
monopolies based on clinical data (data exclusivity). These harmful clauses
could severely affect access to affordable medicines by restricting generic
competition in the region and globally. Ever-increasing pressure on India
to agree to harmful intellectual property provisions in this trade
agreement is particularly concerning, as competition from Indian generic
medicine manufacturers has been instrumental in bringing the price of
life-saving first-line HIV medicines down by 99% since 2001.

“People living with HIV are facing increased mortality rates because of
co-infection with tuberculosis or hepatitis C, and there’s a lack of access
to new drugs to treat these diseases either because of patent monopolies
resulting in high prices, or regulatory barriers”, said Dr. Maria Guevara,
Regional Humanitarian Representative (ASEAN) for MSF. “The UN recently
warned countries to scrutinise all trade deals for their impact on public
health, and I strongly urge all RCEP countries to reject any provisions
that could restrict access to medicines or impede the ability of
governments to meet their public health obligations.”

The proposed agreement also includes stringent intellectual property
enforcement measures. These measures, if adopted, could result in an
increased risk of trade in legitimate medicines being blocked in the name
of infringement, and third parties—such as treatment providers—being
embroiled in court cases simply for buying or distributing generic

“The idea that generic medicines could be seized while en-route to
developing countries under these enforcement measures isn’t a vague
possibility – it’s already happened, multiple times”, said Leena Menghaney,
Head-South Asia, MSF Access Campaign. “If life-saving medicines such as
antiretrovirals to treat HIV don’t make it to people on time because they
were seized, the interruption in treatment could potentially be
for their health. Negotiators of the RCEP agreement need to be aware of the
possibly deadly consequences of what they’re signing up to.”

*Note to the editors:*

In September, the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Access to
Medicines released a final report on promoting innovation for and access to
health technologies that called out the health risks from trade
agreements.  The report, which was endorsed by Secretary General Ban Ki
Moon, recommends that governments conduct impact assessments for all trade
agreements to ensure that “increased trade and economic benefits are not
endangering or impeding the human rights and public health obligations of
the nation.”

Full report available here.

*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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