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Student doctors concerned about TPPA's patient implications

Student doctors concerned about the TPPA and its implications for the health of future patients.

The New Zealand Medical Students’ Association (NZMSA) urges negotiators to keep the health of our patients at the forefront of their minds when negotiating the Trans-­Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Future physicians have grave concerns about the implications for Pharmac. “Access to medicines is a basic right, and Pharmac helps to ensure that right. Out of pocket costs for basic medicines here are only three dollars, compared to countries like the US where patients pay thirty dollars for inhalers and ninety dollars for statins,” says Briar Mannering, third year medical student. Patent extensions and data protection measures could undermine access to cheap generic medicines, driving up costs for New Zealanders, either through increased co-­payments or increased budget allocations to Pharmac. The chief negotiator for NZ today said that the TPP won’t require changes to the “fundamentals” of Pharmac, but this still leaves room for serious restrictions and weakening.

“The TPP could also affect our ability to maintain effective public health policy regulating tobbacco,” says fifth-­year medical student Ben Harley. With proposed intellectual property provisions, foreign corporations could sue governments in overseas tribunals, known as Investor-­State Dispute Settlements, similar to the case currently being taken against the Australian government by Phillip Morris for the introduction of plain packaging. NZ’s chief negotiator David Walker said the TPP will allow governments to make laws for the “health and safety” of the public, but this vague statement is not particularly reassuring.


Pharmaceutical companies, various professionals in the medical workforce, industries and other sectors attended the stakeholder day for the 15th negotiating round of the TPP, along with NZMSA. NZMSA signed a joint statement with four other medical students’ associations, including America and Australia , asking for an agreement that protects patients’ health. NZMSA members also gave a presentation to stakeholders and negotiators on access to medicines, tobacco and the community impact of the TPP, and challenged lead negotiators to ensure New Zealand maintains the right to regulate tobacco with plain packaging.

NZMSA supports trade policy and agreements that support New Zealand’s ability to protect the health of our citizens, rather than limit public health measures, and affecting the health of our future patients.


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