New York/Washington, DC—More than fifty groups have come together to demand that the US Congress reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal (TPP) due to provisions it contains that would undermine public health. In a letter sent to Congress today, the groups outlined the damaging effects the trade deal would have on public health, and said lawmakers should not vote for the TPP unless damaging provisions are removed.
As it is written, the TPP would extend pharmaceutical company monopolies, keep drug prices high, and prevent people and medical treatment providers from accessing lifesaving medicines by blocking or delaying the availability of price-lowering generic drugs in many TPP countries.
"In the United States, TPP would tie Congress’s hands, potentially for decades to come, preventing policymakers from having flexibility as they formulate sensible policies to promote access and keep medicines affordable," the letter reads.
The TPP—which was agreed to in October after more than five years of negotiations that were conducted in secret and without the opportunity for public review—would dismantle public health safeguards and force developing countries to change their laws to incorporate abusive protections for pharmaceutical companies, said the groups. This makes it harder for people—and treatment providers—to buy the affordable medicines they need.
"Competition has consistently proven the most effective means of reducing prices and ensuring process continue to fall over time," reads the letter. "In the US, generic medicines have saved $1.5 trillion in health care costs in the past decade. Internationally, generics have played a critical role in responding to the AIDS epidemic, saving millions of lives."
Unacceptable TPP terms include the following provisions:
- Enabling pharmaceutical companies to unduly influence government health programs and pricing and reimbursement decisions;
- Requiring countries to grant additional 20-year patents for modifications of existing medicines;
- Providing data and market exclusivity periods that create additional monopoly protections and block introduction of generic competitors, even when there is no patent on a medicine. Longer period of protection for biologic medicines—such as monoclonal antibodies that are rapidly becoming the treatment of choice for many cancers, diabetes and other illnesses; and
- Allowing pharmaceutical companies to sue the US or other governments if health policies or government regulations are alleged to deprive them of anticipated profits.
"By expanding the monopoly power of pharmaceutical companies, TPP provisions would restrict generic competition and thereby enable medicine prices to keep spiraling out of reach—locking in a broken system here at home and exporting that system to the eleven other TPP countries," the letter reads. "As written, the TPP is inconsistent with US domestic health priorities and global health policy. We urge Congress to reject the TPP as long as these damaging provisions are part of it. The stakes for public health are too high."
The current TPP countries are the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, but more countries could sign on. In the US, Congressional approval is still needed for the TPP to become law.