Letter to Trade Minister Ed Fast on Trans‐Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement and safeguarding access to medicines

The Council of Canadians is a co-signer on a letter sent to International Trade Minister Ed Fast ahead of this week's Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations in Malaysia, urging the Canadian government to reject U.S. intellectual property rights proposals in the agreement "that would hamper the ability of millions of people worldwide, including Canadians, to receive necessary medications at prices that they can afford."

To read the letter click here.

For more on how access to medicines is threatened by the TPP, see this briefing note from the Global Treatment Access Group. (French version available here.) The group is concerned with how U.S. intellectual property proposals in the TPP would extend patents and data exclusivity periods for brand name drugs, like in the Canada-EU trade deal, while also impeding trade in generic medicines.

The TPP could do further damage in Canada by putting new limits on how drug prices are set or regulated, and removing limits on drug marketing, for example bans on directly marketing pharmaceutical products to health professionals and consumers. The briefing note says:

Undermining governments’ ability to manage costs of its public insurance schemes by ensuring value‐for‐money when it comes to pharmaceutical reimbursement is obviously of grave concern to Canadians, given the significant percentage of people – and particularly and disproportionately seniors, those on social assistance, those with ‘catastrophic’ drug costs and Aboriginal people – who depend upon such programs, whether provincial or federal, for coverage of prescription medications that would otherwise simply be unaffordable.
 
The briefing note also urges the federal government to reject the inclusion of an investor-state dispute settlement process in the TPP, pointing to current investor lawsuits against Canada's pharmaceutical policy (by Eli Lilly) and Australia's anti-smoking plain-packaging measures (by Philip Morris) as examples of how this process threatens our democracies.
 
The GTAG letter was sent to Minister Fast at the same time as a Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders letter to the leaders of all TPP negotiating countries, asking them to "reject provisions that will harm access to medicines and ensure that the final text is aligned with relevant global public health commitments. Such commitments include the 2001 WTO Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health and the 2008 WHO Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation, and Intellectual Property."
 
MSF goes further by calling for a complete rethink on how drugs are researched and developed:
 
There is a pressing need for a paradigm shift in the way pharmaceuticals are researched and developed, and how intellectual property is applied to medicines as global public goods. Governments should introduce global norms which delink drug development and price. MSF believes this is essential to closing the gap in access to medicines for millions of people around the world by promoting both innovation and access.
 
GTAG is a working group of Canadian civil society organizations sharing information and undertaking joint activities aimed at improving access to essential medicines and other aspects of care, treatment and support for people living with HIV/AIDS and other health needs in developing countries.