For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
+1 617 482 1211 (Toll-free 1-800-77-OXFAM)

US Trade Policy Putting Public Health at Risk

Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement to exacerbate Vietnam’s access to medicines crisis

WASHINGTON - The United States is again pursuing an important free trade agreement that will lock in high drug prices out of poor people’s reach – this time across the Asia-Pacific region, warns international agency Oxfam.

Talks resume in Singapore this week for the ‘Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement’ (TPPA). The US is again insisting that countries must take on strict intellectual property protection and drug pricing rules when they sign the deal.

Oxfam believes this will harm their ability to effectively negotiate prices with the world’s big drug companies. For a county like Vietnam that already struggles to keep up with high medicine prices, the TPPA could be devastating.

Dire consequences for millions of people

Oxfam spokesperson Rohit Malpani said: “The US proposals will have dire health consequences across Asia and Latin America. Millions of people are already struggling to find affordable medicines. These rules could price medicines out of reach for future generations too.”

In the past ten years, the US has consistently demanded in these trade negotiations that poor countries should introduce measures that will increase medicine prices.

In particular, the US wants rules that either interfere with basic, WTO-sanctioned safeguards that allow a country to override patent monopolies in order to protect public health, or rules that extend the monopoly for a medicine beyond twenty years, and so delay cheaper generic competition from entering the market.

Malpani said: “The US is putting the interests of the drug industry above those of public health. It needs to reconsider this approach because it undermines the sustainability of public health-care programs and discredits trade itself as a tool for poverty reduction.”

Vientamese already struggling to pay for health care

In Vietnam, government officials, experts and civil society groups are already worried about the possible impact of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement on medicine prices. Patients in Vietnam already pay 72% of their medicine costs.


Our Summer Campaign Is Underway

Support Common Dreams Today

Independent News and Views Putting People Over Profit

Thousands more people could be pushed into poverty there. They will have to choose between medicines and other basic necessities, or forego treatment altogether. Many drugs for diseases including HIV and AIDS, cancer and hepatitis B and C are already too expensive for most people there. 

The TPPA also comes at a bad time for efforts to provide universal treatment to HIV and AIDS. Up to 170,000 people still require basic treatment in Vietnam and thousands more will soon need new, patented anti-retroviral medicines as they will develop resistance to their current treatments. The US proposals will increase these medicine costs too.

To make matters worse, the US – which currently finances more than half of the country’s HIV and AIDS treatment budget – may pull this funding in 2015. 

Malpani said: “At a time at which both the government and patients in Vietnam are struggling to pay for medicines, a trade agreement that will make medicines more expensive is unacceptable. The US should be investing in programs that will foster a sustainable health system in Vietnam, not driving thousands of patients into poverty and poor health.”

Notes to Editors

Download Oxfam’s media briefing: Putting public health at risk: Proposals under the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) to exacerbate Vietnam’s access to medicines crisis

More on Oxfam's Health and Education For All Campaign

Contact Information

For further inquiry, please contact:
Caroline Hooper-Box
+1 202 496 1173
+1 202 321 2967



This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Won't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change. Oxfam works directly with communities and that seeks to influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them.

Share This Article

More in: