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Doctors: TPP Would Trample Access to Medicines

Médecins Sans Frontières warns that lives hang in balance of secret pact

(Photo: Wikimedia Creative Commons / Pöllö)

International humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned Monday that the highly secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership will further erode access to life saving medicines in all countries involved in the deal, hitting poor and vulnerable people the hardest.

The organization joins a crescendo of voices warning of the potentially deadly effects of the mammoth pact as another round of closed-door negotiations commences in Ottawa, Canada.

“Every TPP government is struggling to contain rising health costs, so it’s beyond reason why provisions designed to delay the introduction of low-cost generic medicines would be allowed to make it into the final TPP agreement,” said Stephen Cornish, executive director of MSF Canada, in a statement.

The "free trade" deal is currently under negotiation between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam—which combined comprise approximately 40 percent of the world's GDP.

The U.S. has been aggressively pushing proposals to expand and reinforce pharmaceutical corporations' monopolies on life-saving drugs and restrict the abilities of governments to protect access to lower-cost generic medicines.

The pact is slated to include NAFTA's infamous corporate tribunals, which allow corporations to sue governments in secret courts, circumventing national legal systems. Using this provision in NAFTA, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly sued the Canadian government in 2012 on charges that Canada "favors" generic medicines. The secret tribunal ruling has the potential to change Canadian drug laws.

MSF declared in its statement, "To see the harmful effects of the stringent intellectual property rules that the U.S. seeks to impose on TPP countries, we need only look to the U.S. market, where medicine prices have tripled since 1987, outpacing consumer prices, which have only doubled."

“Higher medicine prices cost lives in countries at every level of economic development, and the TPP regulations in question should be rejected outright," said Judit Rius, U.S. manager and legal policy adviser of the MSF Access Campaign.


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