Tell Trade Negotiators to Put People Before Profits!
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is a multilateral free trade agreement being negotiated in secret between the United States and countries in the Asia-Pacific and the Americas including Canada and Mexico. According to the United States Trade Representative, this agreement will "set the standard for 21st-century trade agreements going forward". From leaked text, it is clear that the United States is pushing aggressive provisions that would limit access to life-saving generic medications through enhanced patent protections and data exclusivity favoring brand-name pharmaceutical companies. Other concerning provisions also threaten the principles of evidence-based medicine as practitioners will be forced to choose not necessarily the best treatments for their patients due to fear of patent infringement for diagnostic, therapeutic, and surgical methods. Additionally, as provisions for tobacco and alcohol are not excluded from the TPP, multinational companies will potentially be allowed to override national initiatives to curb access to such products and prevent millions of disease and death that these products cause.
If the TPP is finalized with these provisions included, millions of people around the world will not be able to access affordable medicines, receive the best treatment available, or be prevented through government initiatives from admirable goals such as becoming “smokefree” or curbing alcohol abuse.
As physicians-in-training from countries participating in Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations, we urge you, as negotiators, and our government officials to ensure that any provisions included in the agreement text promote public health and access to medicines rather than prioritizing multinational corporate profits over patients.
As the next generation of physician leaders, we are deeply troubled by both the lack of transparency surrounding these negotiations as well as the preferential access to agreement text and negotiators afforded to industry. We echo this call and others by various civil society organizations for release of the full text of the draft agreement as well as the same privileges for stakeholders to participate in negotiations as has been provided to corporations. It is essential that the TPP text be subject to public scrutiny and reflect the priorities of the global citizenry.
During our medical training, we witness firsthand the crucial benefit that access to affordable medicines gives to patients. The ability to receive such life-saving drugs is critical in preventing unnecessary deaths due to both infectious and noncommunicable diseases. Unfortunately, it appears that current negotiations may compromise this access by imposing unprecedented TRIPS-plus IP provisions. If included in the agreement, these provisions have the potential to jeopardize millions of lives in TPP participating countries by granting monopoly protections to pharmaceutical companies, driving up the costs of medicines significantly. It is unacceptable that cost as a result of this agreement will become a barrier to access and ultimately, a healthy life.
Therefore, we call for the following:
• Prohibition of “evergreening” or use of minor modifications of existing drugs to extend market exclusivity;
• Exemption from patent infringement of diagnostic, therapeutic, and surgical procedures similar to 35 USC 287(c);
• Rejection of any provision to provide data exclusivity for biologics;
• Preservation of existing national pharmaceutical benefit schemes such as Pharmac in New Zealand and Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme;
• Incorporation of an IP framework that promotes access to medicines in all TPP-participating countries.
In addition, tobacco and alcohol have been demonstrated to significantly contribute to global disease morbidity and mortality. Tobacco alone is responsible for one in ten deaths worldwide, and alcohol use accounts for nearly 4% of deaths globally each year. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) recognized the role of “price and tax measures” in reducing tobacco consumption. In light of the unique status and potential for harm that these products have, it is essential that both tobacco and alcohol be carved out of any agreement.
As signatories to this petition, we implore you to ensure that any TPP agreement ensures our future patients are able to access evidence-based and effective medicines and procedures rather than forcing us as practitioners to compromise our medical professionalism and the quality of care we are able to provide our patients. As the TPP is a historic effort expected to set a precedent for future agreements, we hope that it will also set a precedent in prioritizing the health of our nations.