Source: Free Malaysia Today
US negotiators are bent on restricting access to affordable medicines and constraining governments’ ability to protect citizens’ health, says an international NGO.
KUCHING: An international non-profit medical and humanitarian organisation claimed today that the United States is bent on “finalising a deal” restricting further access to affordable medicines in the 19th round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) which begins in Brunei tomorrow.
The TPPA is a free trade initiative which aims to further liberalise the economies of the Asia-Pacific.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said ‘the negotiators were moving towards finalising a deal that would restrict access to affordable medicines and constrain governments’ ability to protect the health of their citizens’.
“Despite more than 18 months of persistent opposition from its trading partners, the US government has refused to back down from its demands for intellectual property (IP) rules designed to impede timely access to affordable generic medicines,” said Leena Menghaney, MSF Access Campaign manager.
She claimed the US is aiming to block any attempt by participating governments to control abusive patenting or limiting drug patent terms to the internationally-agreed 20 years.
“These efforts are a repudiation of the US government’s own prior commitments to balance commercial pharmaceutical interests with the public health interests of developing country populations,” she said.
She said the US might “further push with a new demand” for 12 years of “data exclusivity” protections for biologics, a class of products that includes many lifesaving drugs used to treat conditions such as diabetes, cancer and hepatitis C.
Data exclusivity gives companies monopoly rights on drugs by restricting the use of clinical trial data by drug regulators when approving generic drugs or “biosimilar” versions of drugs and vaccines.
“Data exclusivity creates a new patent-like barrier to accessing medicines and vaccines, even when these products are not protected by patents.
“While the data is locked up, competitors with affordable versions of drugs in the pipeline would be forced to repeat clinical trials in order to get them approved – a costly step that is also unethical, as safety and efficacy has already been established by the originator company,” she said in a statement.
She added the World Health Organisation and other UN agencies had already warned countries against implementing data exclusivity because of its harmful effects on access to medicines.
The US proposal represents the most aggressive Intellectual Property (IP) standards ever seen in a trade agreement with developing countries.
For example, TPP countries would be bound to grant patents on new uses, new forms and new formulations of existing medicines, effectively “ever-greening” pharmaceutical patent monopolies for well beyond 20 years.
‘TPPA good for Malaysia’
“Governments have a responsibility to ensure that the final TPP agreement doesn’t exacerbate the failure of the medical research and development system to deliver affordable medicines that address the health needs of developing countries,” she said.
As pressure mounts to finalise the TPP pact ahead of the October APEC summit, MSF urged the 12 participating countries to stand firm and reject harmful rules that jeopardise access to medicines.
Meanwhile Asian Development Bank (ADB) chief economist Changyong Rhee said the TPPA will bring great benefits for Malaysia.
Bernama quoted him as saying that a more open economy was best for structural reforms in Malaysia and to help the country increase market access.
“Being an economist, I’ll suggest (to Malaysia), not only just TPPA but other free trade agreements will provide great benefits.
“This because what Malaysia needs is macroeconomic efficiency and the opening of trade market is the best way to improve market efficiency,” he said.
Rhee was yesterday asked to comment on concerns raised by some quarters that the TPPA could bring negative impact to countries like Malaysia.
Rhee is chief spokesperson for ADB on economic and development trends, and oversees the Economic and Research Department, which publishes ADB’s flagship knowledge products.
He said it looked like the US, together with Japan, had strong political will to go through the TPPA.
“I think the atmosphere is much more promising than many economists had (earlier) thought.
“On the other hand they are really talking about real sector issues, so probably the next one or two months will be critical on how much give-and-take will be agreed,” Rhee said.
Japan joined as the 12th TPPA member during the 18th round of negotiations held in Sabah last month.
The current round of negotiations ends on Aug 30