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Medical Students Concerned About Patient Rights in TPP

Press release: New Zealand medical students concerned about lack of outcomes for protection of patient rights in TPP negotiations

The New Zealand Medical Students’ Association (NZMSA) urges negotiators and politicians to preserve New Zealand's freedom to implement innovative health policy during Trans--Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

Tobacco control measures, including plain packaging, were still a major talking point during the stakeholder sessions of round 16 of negotiations in Singapore. The proposed TPP text includes provisions which could see New Zealand sued in overseas courts, much the way Australia is undergoing currently, if the government tries to use plain packaging to achieve the ‘Smokefree 2025’ goal. When asked, the lead negotiator for New Zealand assured stakeholders that it would be possible to “strike a balance” between commercial interests and safeguards for public health. NZMSA would like to remind negotiators and politicians that any agreement which gives any room to the commercial interests of tobacco companies is unacceptable, and to request that they continue listening to the voices of medical experts in the field. As Briar Mannering, third year medical student at the University of Auckland, states, “It certainly wouldn’t hurt if one of these experts in the field was able to brief the health select committee on these issues.”

Student doctors impress the importance of keeping intact not just PHARMAC’s structure, but mechanisms that it uses to provide medicines at little expense to patients. “PHARMAC provides equal access to medicines, which are a basic need, not a mere commodity,” says Ms Mannering. “PHARMAC’s purchasing power has also been shown to provide New Zealanders with some of the cheapest medicines in the world”. US pharmaceutical companies are pushing for provisions which would drive up the cost of medicines, and delay the entry of cheap generics onto the market. “Our drug buying policies should be kept separate from any trade agreement, or we risk paying out more in expensive hospital care.”

NZMSA looks forward to further collaboration with other groups in continuing to bring attention to this issue, and asks that the health sector continues to work together both nationally and internationally to keep patient concerns on the table. We need to ensure that the health of all New Zealanders remains of the utmost importance and is not compromised in the pursuit of trade benefits during these negotiations.

Background:

Civil society groups, industry leaders and other sectors convened in Singapore today at the stakeholders’ forum during this 16th round of TPP negotiations. NZMSA was present, asking questions of the negotiators and presenting during the stakeholder forum.

The TPP is a free trade agreement being negotiated between New Zealand, Australia, the US, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, Chile, Peru, Brunei, Vietnam and Mexico. Negotiators and politicians are aiming for an October deadline to reach a conclusion to the agreement.

NZMSA asks for a trade policy that considers the health of New Zealanders and maintains room to regulate for healthy policy, rather than limiting public health measures.

ENDS

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