December 1 is World AIDS Day, a day described as "an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died." The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a complex trade deal that we're still trying to figure out all the ramifications of.
Here are 12 ways TPP could be bad for people with AIDS:
1. The Intellectual Property (IP) Chapter of TPP elevates the rights of patent holders over public health protections when the two conflict. The document's principles provide no special protections for public health and nutrition and such provisions are only allowed if they are consistent with the IP Chapter.
2. The IP Chapter includes specific measures that undermine access to medicines in developing countries. These harmful measures lock in current U.S. patent rules that many policymakers and stakeholders even now are seeking to reform. In the future, Congress will be less able to improve patent policies to increase affordability and cost effectiveness. The situation will be even more dire for developing country partners who face even greater resource constraints.
3. Two articles in the IP Chapter require countries to establish periods of exclusivity for chemical and biologic drugs that will lead to delays in the introduction of cheaper generic.
4. Pharmaceutical companies will be allowed to extend monopoly protections by making modest changes in the way an older drug is administered or formulated or by demonstrating a new use for an older drug. This inhibits innovation by encouraging pharmaceutical companies to research small changes in existing technologies rather than focus their research efforts on real breakthroughs.
5. The TPP requires parties to extend patent terms to compensate for "unreasonable" delays in granting the patent, again potentially delaying generic competition and restricting access to affordable medicines. While this may increase profits, it won't necessarily save any lives.
6. Although the TPP seems to provide some flexibility in terms of the length of the required exclusivity (monopoly) rights that must be provided to "biologics" drugs (over and above the patent rights), if the TPP goes into effect, big pharmaceutical companies and their allies in the U.S. Trade Representative's office may still pressure countries to apply the longest monopoly period, thus delaying generic competition and denying more people access to lifesaving drugs.
7. Global pharmaceutical firms will be able to challenge steps taken by the federal government and states to moderate prescription drug costs in Medicare and Medicaid. As states update their Medicaid formularies, they may be subject to ISDS challenges by global pharmaceutical companies that disagree with listing and pricing decisions or even utilization rules.
8. A so-called transparency annex could thwart proposed reforms in the Medicare Part B pricing formula for drugs administered in a doctor’s office. Exploding and unjustified prices for drugs to treat Hepatitis C, cancer and other illnesses are already causing Americans to be denied medicines that will cure them of life-threatening illnesses.
9. The Investment Chapter of TPP would make it so that investors will be able to freely attack—and in some cases win judgments against—measures that reduce their profits, even when those measures are non-discriminatory measures designed to promote public health or other public interest goals.
10. TPP contains provisions that give device and pharmaceutical companies greater leverage in listing and pricing decisions by government programs.
11. The "transparency" annex also gives device pharmaceutical companies the ability to appeal decisions they don’t like. Global drug and device companies can use evidence gleaned from the procedures it requires to bring challenges under the investor-state dispute settlement process.
12. Finally, the annex fails to include cost effectiveness among its principles—a critical concept if we want to protect and preserve Medicare into the future.
Pride at Work Executive Director Jerame Davis said:
World AIDS Day is an annual chance to reflect on our battle against the HIV/AIDS pandemic and a reminder that we have an obligation to care for each other. Continued worldwide progress in containing and fighting back against HIV/AIDS means access to affordable drugs. Unfortunately, by harming access to live-saving medications, the TPP poses a real threat to our continued progress in fighting the pandemic. Treatment of those living with the virus is needed not only to save the lives those living with HIV/AIDS, but to prevent new infections as well – those who have access to treatment are less likely to pass on the virus. Our trade deals should put people before profits, but TPP would do just the opposite.