Press release |

As Trans-Pacific trade talks accelerate, vital lifeline of affordable medicines under threat


Geneva/Singapore, 6 December 2013 — As trade ministers for the 12 countries negotiating the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement convene in Singapore this weekend for high level talks aimed at securing a deal by the end of the year, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned that the vital lifeline of affordable generic medicines that millions depend on could be severely constrained by the terms of the trade pact.

In the latest technical negotiations that ended in Salt Lake City last week, the U.S. government not only held firm on proposed intellectual property (IP) terms that have been widely rejected by its trading partners and others, including MSF, but added an additional demand to protect high prices for newer biologic medicines, and altered the terms by which the poorest countries will need to implement these obligations. 

“After two years of stonewalling its trading partners, the U.S. government is trying to use deadline pressure to force negotiators to accept the most damaging restrictions on public health and access to medicines ever to be imposed on developing countries,” said Rohit Malpani, Director of Policy and Analysis for MSF’s Access Campaign.  “The U.S. government seems determined to give pharmaceutical companies more power to raise the cost of medicines for millions of people around the world, while curtailing the power of governments to protect public health.  MSF urges all TPP countries to reject political pressure to accept damaging rules in the final push to conclude the negotiations.”

For a summary of MSF’s concerns, read our open letter sent to all TPP countries, and visit our 'Spotlight on the TPP page' for more information

The U.S. has put forth a new demand that clinical data for biologic medicines be locked up for 12 years, granting additional monopoly protection to biopharmaceutical firms. This “data exclusivity” provision will prevent drug regulatory agencies from referencing data needed to approve lower-cost versions of expensive medicines, thereby delaying price-lowering competition. This proposal directly contravenes the White House’s own calls to reduce data exclusivity terms in the U.S. to seven years to protect consumers from additional years of high medicine prices.

In an attempt to gain political concessions, the U.S. government is also proposing differential treatment for the intellectual property chapter, whereby several of the poorest countries in the negotiations could defer full implementation of a few of the provisions for a limited time.  But all countries – including the poorest – would still immediately be saddled with intellectual property rules that far exceed what is required under international trade rules, which already pose serious barriers to affordable medicines.  And eventually all of the harmful terms would be applied to all TPP countries.

“The U.S. claims that its amended proposal offers the same concessions made to a few developing countries by the prior administration in previous trade agreements, but in fact what’s on offer today is more damaging than what was agreed to in those trade deals,” said Judit Rius Sanjuan, U.S. Manager of MSF’s Access Campaign.  “The U.S. government’s superficial concessions reveal that the U.S. remains tone-deaf to public health concerns; the amended U.S. offer would ultimately have disastrous effects on poor people across the region, and should be rejected.”