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March 07, 2014
Profit or Health in the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
    by Robert Kropp

Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility warn US trade negotiator against expanding tobacco sales and increasing intellectual property rights for medicine.


The November publication by WikiLeaks of a draft text of the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) revealed that US negotiators proposed the extension of intellectual property rights for drugs manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. The draft text lengthens patent protections from 20 to 25 years.

Furthermore, according to an analysis by GlobalPost, “The proposal would also allowing pharmaceutical companies to patent new formulations of existing medicines, a process called 'evergreening,' which draws out the number of years a company maintains exclusive rights to a drug.”

“In the field of health, generic competition saves lives,” Doctor s Without Borders stated. “Robust generic competition was instrumental in bringing down the price of the first generation of antiretroviral medicines by 99% over ten years, a key factor that allowed HIV/AIDS treatment to be scaled up to more than eight million people in developing countries.”

“Unless damaging provisions are removed before negotiations are finalized,” Doctors Without Borders warned, “the TPP agreement is on track to become the most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines in developing countries.”

Global access to medicine has been a priority of many sustainable investors for many years, and members of the Inter faith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) have addressed these and other health-related concerns in a letter sent to Michael Froman, the US Trade Representative. In addition to extending patent protections for drugs, the TPP draft also reveals that the US has proposed eliminating tariffs on tobacco products.

“The investors are seeking assurances that disease‐causing tobacco products and higher levels of protection for intellectual property rights around the development of medicines be eliminated from any trade agreements as they present clear public health concerns,” ICCR stated.

 

 
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