TPP negotiators must fix the most damaging trade agreement ever for global health

As U.S. aims to close deal, countries should reject damaging provisions that will block access to affordable medicines

Maui/New York - Trade negotiators must remove damaging access to medicines provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal or risk locking in high drug prices and endangering the health of millions of people for decades to come, said Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) as negotiations resumed in Maui, Hawaii, today.  MSF’s call comes as reports indicate that this could be the last negotiation before the agreement is concluded.

If approved in its current form, the TPP, which is being negotiated between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries, will have a devastating impact on global health. It would strengthen, lengthen and create new patent and regulatory monopolies for pharmaceutical products that will raise the price of medicines and reduce the availability of price-lowering generic competition.

“We have raised our voice as loudly as we can, repeatedly warning that this is a terrible deal for access to affordable medicines,” said Manica Balasegaram, Executive Director of MSF’s Access Campaign, “Ministries of Health, humanitarian groups such as MSF and global health programs funded by the U.S. government all rely on affordable medicines to provide medical care. Despite repeated warnings from MSF, other concerned experts and groups, and even other negotiating countries, U.S. negotiators have pushed for provisions that benefit pharmaceutical companies at the expense of more than 800 million people who need access to affordable generic medicines in current TPP countries.”

Some of the most concerning provisions in the TPP center on so-called ‘patent evergreening,’ which would force TPP governments to grant pharmaceutical companies additional patents for changes to existing medicines, even when those changes provide no therapeutic benefit to patients.

U.S. negotiators have also aggressively pushed for 12 years of ‘data exclusivity’ for biologic medicines, which include vaccines and drugs to treat conditions such as cancer and multiple sclerosis. Data exclusivity blocks government regulatory authorities from allowing price-lowering generic competitors to enter the market with previously generated clinical data.

If pharmaceutical companies get their way, brand-name drugs and vaccines would not face direct competition for excessively long periods of time while patients, medical providers like MSF, and people in TPP countries endure unnecessarily high prices.

“The U.S. is demanding that countries implement a devastating set of new trade rules that will essentially block people from benefitting from the latest advances in medicines for years simply because this is in the interest of multinational pharmaceutical companies,” said Judit Rius Sanjuan, U.S. Manager and Policy Advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign. “Extended monopolies, such as those being pushed by the U.S. in the TPP, are irresponsible and harmful to public health.”

The provisions demanded by U.S. negotiators break past U.S. government commitments to global health, including a 2007 agreement in which the U.S agreed to include key public health safeguards in future free trade deals with developing countries.

“The U.S. has abandoned its previous commitments to protect health in its trade policy,” said Rius. “The TPP is a precedent-setting blueprint for future trade deals that will deny countries their right to balance business interests with the public health needs of people – a right that is ingrained in international trade rules. This week might be the last chance negotiators have to mitigate some of the potential devastation of the TPP. We ask government negotiators to protect access to medicines and fix the most damaging provisions in the TPP.”