Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) is deeply concerned about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) reached between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries on Monday. Providing extended protection for pharmaceutical monopolies that reduce the ability of generic competitors to enter the market, the TPP sets a disturbing precedent for global commerce that will have long-term effects on the price of lifesaving medications around the world.
Simply put, the TPP negotiations were undemocratic and non-transparent. While multinational pharmaceutical companies were granted exclusive access to view this trade document throughout the entire negotiating process, the text of the TPP was unavailable to the public. Even today, at the conclusion of the negotiations, the text has not been released. This bias makes it extremely challenging for those who will be most affected by the TPP to comment concretely on the specifics.
That this agreement will lead to increased monopoly power for the pharmaceutical industry is a travesty. Based on what we know about the TPP provisions from leaked versions of the text, data exclusivity for biologics was one of a number of key areas under negotiation that would affect access to medicines. The TPP will provide multinational pharmaceutical companies unprecedented privileges: extending the period of data exclusivity for biologics to ‘five plus three’ years which will delay the entry of generics into the market, keeping prices artificially high. Extended international protection of pharmaceutical companies provided by the TPP will also delay the entry of price-lowering generic competition for more affordable and accessible lifesaving medicines. The negative effects of this agreement will have far-reaching implications for access to medicines worldwide in the decades to come and today will serve as another tool for pharma for future negotiations and arbitrary pricing of drugs.
However, the deal reached on Monday will still have to pass Congress before becoming law in the United States while alternative democratic processes will need to be followed in other countries. This is once again an opportunity to stand up and push back against a deal that primarily serves the interests of pharma over the interests of people.
UAEM calls upon governments to immediately suspend the process of the TPP and increase transparency of the negotiation text by making it fully available not only to pharmaceutical corporations, but to the general public, those most affected by this agreement. We strongly urge governments to take up the original ask of the access to medicines community: that strengthened pharmaceutical power not impede access to lifesaving medication worldwide. As the next generation of lawyers, doctors, medical researchers and public health specialists, whose communities will bear the brunt of this agreement, we urge governments today to urgently fight back against the TPP by not ratifying the agreement. Further, we call upon the U.S. Congress to recognize the role of the TPP and the true influence and irresponsibility of pharmaceutical companies in relation to the failed biomedical research and development (R&D) system that continues to ignore the poor and the least able to pay, in favor of corporate dollars.
Alternatives exist. The current R&D system can and should be radically adjusted. Alternative models to incentivize R&D have been proposed at the World Health Organization, although there is still no global binding agreement to secure sustainable financing and coordination of biomedical research and development. In light of the result of the TPP negotiations now more than ever we urge the delegates at the World Health Assembly to recognize the need for a global health research & development agreement at their next meeting in 2016.
It is not too late to halt the progress of the TPP. There is still time to act on behalf of the global community and not be bought by the pharmaceutical industry.