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Hospital specialists sound alarm over trade agreement

Hospital specialists sound alarm over trade agreement

Media release: Thursday, 27 February

Senior Christchurch hospital doctors are the latest group to raise concerns about the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), currently being negotiated between New Zealand and 11 other countries.

Christchurch Psychiatrist Dr Erik Monasterio, who has spoken out this week against the TPPA, says there is another concerning aspect to the agreement.

“From what we have seen from leaked documents, under this agreement, pharmaceutical companies would have the right to appeal any and all of Pharmac’s decisions. Just as an American drug company recently sued the Canadian government for $500 million over an allegedly poorly performing medication the Canadians no longer wanted to fund, New Zealand could find itself constantly embroiled in costly international lawsuits that could suck millions more dollars out of our health system.”

Christchurch Hospitals’ Medical Staff Association Chair, Dr Ruth Spearing, says doctors are deeply concerned that the agreement could lead to out-of-control medication prices, and less money to go around for health services.

“This agreement is all about opening things up for multinational drug companies and making it easier for them to do business here, with as few restrictions as possible. This is exactly the reason Pharmac was established in the first place. Pharmac was created to keep medication prices down, and generate savings that now fund services right throughout the health system.”

“Pharmac savings fund everything from low cost GP visits, screening and vaccinations through to medications, blood tests, hip replacements and cataracts. If a service, test, procedure, treatment or medication gets a government subsidy, this Trade Agreement potentially threatens our ability to provide it to all who need it, in the future.”

Dr Spearing agrees with Auckland Cancer Specialist Dr George Laking, that the TPPA is a ‘lose/lose’ for patients.

“The drug companies are the only winners. Presently, we pay relatively low amounts for medication in New Zealand, as a system and as patients. The big concern with the TPPA is that it’s going to give pharmaceutical companies unfair advantages in the market. This risks a free-for-all that could lead to higher prescription prices at the cash register, or services being cut back.”

Senior Respiratory Physician Lutz Beckert reminds people that it will affect many other aspects of health. “The TPPA may put business principles of protecting the intellectual property rights of branding cigarettes or protecting the ‘business investment’ of their retail infrastructure ahead of the protection of people who smoke.”

Dr Alistair Humphrey adds, “New Zealand will no longer have be able to influence really worthwhile public health policies – these will be in the hands of American/International companies."

ENDS

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