• Global health reform, PhRMA-edition

    The proposals in the now-leaked Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement text go far beyond patents and exclusivity for drug data (delaying generics), but also make domestic drug reimbursement a matter of international law.  The TPP would curtail the freedom of governmental health plans to negotiate or set pharmaceutical prices.

    The US can’t come to a policy consensus in this area domestically, so setting global policy norms would seem to be a non-starter. Who would try use global trade deals to bypass national legislative processes in a contentious domestic area like health care reimbursement for drugs?

    Start with President Obama, or at least his Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).  From the Bangkok Post:

    Mr Obama is now rolling back the Bush-era stance on medical patents. Mr Bush basically acceded to demands from developing countries, led by Thailand, for access to affordable medicines. It was Mr Bush who backed down when challenged by the Ministry of Public Health over drugs for Aids and heart disease. He accepted that the right to affordable medicine trumped strict patent enforcement. The new policy under Mr Obama specifically returns the right of “big pharma” to retain and expand its patent rights. That means a monopoly on any “new” drug and on all marketing. US negotiators at the past two TPP sessions threw these proposals on the table nonchalantly, as if they meant nothing. Civil society groups leapt on the issue, putting the entire TPP proposal at risk.

    For details, see the 52 page report by academics at American, Yale and Northeastern, and the issue brief from Médecins Sans Frontières. For the record, I’m not opposed to making policy in this area, but this is being done in great secrecy, without any normal deliberative political process. We need transparency, not 18th century diplomatic models.

    • This is yet another sign of the incredible corruption of our political system by corporations. In this case, pharmaceutical companies have paid our politicians to demand monopoly control of their products and prices. By putting this into the TPP, it will force US prices on the world; including the poor of the world who will not be able to afford lifesaving medication. This is truly evil.

    • I guess the PTT agreement is one way to make our numbers compare more favorably with OECD countries: make them pay more for pharma. It just seems like there is no end to the relevations about the influence of money in US policy.

      Lawrence Lessig et al seem to be doing some good work. They may already know about this specific example but why not send it to Lessig just in case he does not know.