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Obama's Trade Policy Ensures Big Pharma Profit at Expense of World's Poor: Report

Common Dreams staff

Obama speaks at the White House after the Supreme Court ruled on Affordable Care Act. (Photo: AP/Luke Sharrett)

In a bid that will bolster profits for western pharmaceutical corporations at the expense of the world's most vulnerable, the Obama administration is pushing international drug pricing policies that would ensure elevated prices for essential medicines across the developing world, according to a report by the Huffington Post.

The report explores how the Obama administration's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has increasingly sought to intensify western pharmaceutical patent and data exclusivity rules through international trade negotiations such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which allow for steep increases in drug prices around the world. United Nations groups, the World Health Organization, and many human rights lawyers and patient advocates argue these corporation-friendly rules greatly oppress sick patients in developing countries.

"We're taking the worst parts of U.S. law, the parts that make these medications unavailable to patients, and putting them into a trade policy as a guiding principle for developing countries. That's ridiculous," Reshma Ramachandran, a fellow with the American Medical Student Association, told the Huffington Post.

USPTO Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea has recently embarked on a campaign to put an end to what is known as an international 'compulsory licensing' law -- a rule that allows local pharmaceutical companies in countries such as India to produce 'generic' drugs in competition with western corporations. The generic versions are far more affordable than imported 'brand name' drugs from the west.

Revoking protections for 'generic drugs' would allow the continued domination of developing markets by western pharmaceutical companies. "It's disappointing and outrageous. Compulsory licensing is a sovereign right to protect public health and other public interests," stated Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen's Access to Medicines Program.

"That the Obama administration cannot see the gross inequity of charging $5000 per person per month for a cancer medicine in a developing country says a lot about this government," says Shiba Phurailpatam of the Asia Pacific Network of people living with HIV/AIDS. "Affordable care, it seems, is only for U.S. citizens, not for the developing world."

The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, which are slated to give unprecedented political authority to multinational corporations and are being used to push through such policies, have gone on for two years between the Obama administration and several Pacific nations under conditions of 'extreme secrecy'.

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