Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

"This year, Canada contributed $500-million to the replenishment of the Gavi Vaccine Alliance's fund. Canada is also one of the leading donors to the Global Fund to Fight AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has provided antiretroviral therapy to over six million people living with HIV in developing countries."
Stephen Cornish, executive director, Doctors Without Borders Canada

"Now, thanks to a retroactive examination of the usefulness condition -- established in 2010 by the Canadian Federal Court of Appeals -- a patent must meet heightened requirements for usefulness. "
"...This look[s] like industrial policy for Canadian generic drug producers who now can receive the unpatented formula at no cost once the patent is revoked [due to the 'Promise Doctrine' where patents under Canadian law must perform the action they promise to do]."
"...Innovative pharmaceutical companies suffered more than $1.1-billion in lost sales from the premature termination of patents in Canada."
Michelle Wein, trade policy analyst, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Washington

"The U.S. should drop its demand in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks that its trading partners respect a rule giving the American pharmaceutical industry 12 years of exclusive rights to its patents. Even Europe allows shorter time spans."
Caroline Freund, The Japan Times

 TPP Member Fact Sheets

Ah, Hawaii, a lovely place to visit, particularly by those who live in northern climates. It's one of Barack Obama's favourite getaways, nostalgic for the past, isn't it? And it is there that closed door negotiations have been taking place in a hotel where representatives of a dozen countries are working on hammering out a collective trade agreement that will impact the lives of an estimated 800 million people, representing 40 percent of the global economy.

Image above: From (

Ten Pacific Rim countries as well as the United States and now Canada are in negotiations for a final agreement to consolidate the collective trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  The partnership members also include, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, Japan, Peru, Chile, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Brunei Darussalam. And all of these countries are anticipating that this partnership will be of immense export-trade value to them all.

The issues under discussion range from government procurement, investment, intellectual property, services, dispute settlement, goods, trade and environment, all the way to the really contentious issue of governments providing subsidies to protected industries in for example, agricultural production or manufactured goods. Take, for example, the U.S. where President Obama wishes Congress to grant him authority to fasttrack the TPP on his own initiative.

Something like his personal decision as chief of the executive branch of government in the U.S. to decide to veto the XL pipeline, reflecting his personal distaste for Canada's "dirty oil", his decision paying homage to many of those who brought him to public office at the highest level; to name but one constituency: environmentalists. Of course electing a president of the United States is a costly affair and there were also others instrumental in funding his presidency campaign.

One of the critical issues at stake in the TPP agreement being worked on coming courtesy of leaks from the TPP draft text is that some governments are angling to dismantle public-health safeguards reflecting international law, to extend the time limits permitting brand-name medicines' protection under patent. The effect of such extensions would result in monopolistic protection, ensuring that generic drug manufacturers must wait longer to produce less expensive versions of the patent-protected medicines.

The cost of immunizing a child with World Health Organization recommended vaccines has grown 6,700% since 2001, according to Doctors Without Borders. Stricter intellectual property rules the TPP is negotiating are guaranteed to further limit competition by maintaining artificially high prices, thus keeping these life-saving vaccines out of reach of those who most need them. Generic competition levels the price-field, ensuring all who need these drugs a better opportunity to obtain them.

Donor-supported global health institutions along with Doctors Without Borders have a heavy reliance on affordable, quality generic medicines to enable them to  fulfill 85% of their programming for health-provision initiatives. Proposals by the United States and a few other countries in the TPP could limit the effectiveness of these humanitarian organizations' programs, diverting resources from patient care where it is most needed.

Drug expenditures in Canada have been steadily growing in the last 25 years, consuming an ever-greater portion of tax dollars in health care. Prescription drug costs have doubled from the mid-1980s to 2012. Canada and other countries are actively opposing some of the most potentially harmful provisions in the TPP agreement.

A petition at calling on Canada to resist pressure and stand up against the U.S. move to prolong patent monopolies for years, has resulted in over 32,000 signatures. It would be most unfortunate if the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement resulted in passage of the move by the United States to protect its pharmaceutical industries' bottom line. The long-term harmful impact on people who rely on less expensive, reliable versions of drugs they need to continue life, would be immeasurable.

This would deleteriously impact affordable health care in all the countries affected. And it would restrict access to medicines for millions of people in developing countries. Pharmaceutical companies, with such patent extension would be enabled to charge higher prices for longer periods of time, restricting access to affordable generic medicines. Those who can least afford to pay will be penalized disproportionately, but at the government level public health care will also be impacted.

The pharmaceutical lobby and their resourceful forward-thinking in helping to elect a president who will aid their bottom line places in question the character and independent thought to benefit an international populace and not a broad spectrum of name-drug manufacturers speaking volumes about the values and priorities of those in positions of power.

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