Doctors Warn of the Impact From the Trans-Pacific Partnership


Physicians are worried about the 12 countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which seeks to cut tariffs and set common standards on intellectual property, because the regional trade pact could result in higher medical costs. Medical associations from 7 of the 12 countries wrote a letter to be published in The Lancet Medical Journal claiming, "Rising medicine costs would disproportionately affect already vulnerable populations, obstructing efforts to improve health equity within and between countries."

One of the biggest issues right now with the pact is the monopoly period for biologic drugs. The U.S. protects biologics for 12 years, Japan protects for 8 years, and Australia for 5 years; meanwhile, other countries like Chile offer no protections at all. Costs could significantly increase if cheaper generic drugs slowly come to market. This issue of biologics is particularly troubling for Australia and New Zealand because they have taxpayer, subsidy funded schemes for medicines. Deborah Gleeson, a lecturer at Australia's La Trobe University, estimates that generic drugs of the 10 most expensive drugs available under the country's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme would save more than $200 million a year. The Australian and New Zealand trade ministers have both said they will not do anything to undermine public health programs.

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