Access to Medicines in Grave Danger as Trans-Pacific Partnership Talks Continue

Jose Cendon


NEW YORK—As Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiators gather in Salt Lake City to meet for the first time since the intellectual property chapter of the secret trade agreement was leaked last week, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is urging countries to stand strongly against the United States government’s attack on access to affordable medicines.

“The leak confirms our worst fears—the US is continuing its attempts to impose an unprecedented package of new trade rules that would keep affordable generic medicines out of the hands of millions of people,” said Judit Rius Sanjuan, US manager of MSF’s Access Campaign. “The good news is that the leak also reveals that the majority of countries negotiating this trade deal object to some or all of the most harmful provisions affecting access to medicines. The US cannot possibly expect countries to cave in to rules that will endanger the health of their citizens.”

Five countries—Canada, Chile, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Singapore—have put forth a counter-proposal that tries to better balance public health needs with the commercial interests of pharmaceutical firms. The counter-proposal would retain public health protections and implement rules for pharmaceutical patenting and intellectual property according to existing international standards set by the World Trade Organization. These rules present fewer, but still significant, obstacles to the flow of affordable generic medicines.

“With so much official opposition now clearly in the public view, countries should be able to withstand political pressure from the US and ensure that the TPP doesn’t prioritize pharmaceutical profits over the lives and wellbeing of poor people,” said Rius Sanjuan.

This week MSF is launching a public appeal directed at Michael Froman, the United State trade representative, asking him to withdraw aggressive provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will restrict access to affordable medicines for millions of people.

For more information on how the TPP affects access to medicines, visit

A patient at Lizo Nobanda TB Care Centre in Khayelitsha township, takes her pills against TB.
Jose Cendon