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Affordable medicines at risk in trade deal

Look past drug industry spin – affordable medicines at risk in trade deal

“Once again the pharmaceutical industry is pumping out misleading information, suggesting that there’s no need to worry about price hikes to New Zealand medicines under the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA)” says Public Health Physician and Researcher Dr Pat Neuwelt, spokesperson for Doctors for Healthy Trade, commenting on the most recent falsely reassuring statement from the drug industry.

“Now they are claiming that we don’t need to worry about a law change to bring in patent term extensions.” Patent term extension laws allow drug companies to extend their monopoly beyond 20 years if processing applications for regulatory approval take longer than the drug company would like. Patent term extension law change in Australia has been estimated to cost $240 million over the medium term and $480 million over the long term just for extensions granted in the 2012-2013 financial year alone.

“Big Pharma say we don’t need to worry if the TPPA brings in patent term extensions because the Australian-US trade agreement didn’t raise Australian medicines costs. That is simply misdirection. The Australian-US trade agreement didn’t need to bring in patent term extension. The Australians law change happened before then. The patent term extension law change resulted in their drug bill going up. We shouldn’t let the TPPA force New Zealand to follow the Australian law.” said Dr Neuwelt.

“Earlier we had misleading claims from Big Pharma that a major risk to the health of New Zealanders was the time it takes PHARMAC to make decisions on new medicines. But by far the greater risk to health is the TPPA proposal to increase the length of time for ‘data exclusivity’ on a new class of drugs known as ‘biologics’ to delay affordable versions of medicines becoming available” she said.

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‘Biologics’ are hugely expensive drugs made by biological processes that are revolutionizing the treatment of cancer and many other serious conditions. For the 7 most expensive biologics currently in NZ, each extra year under monopoly would cost an extra $25-50 million dollars. With many more promising biologic drugs due to come on line over the next few years, this figure would increase dramatically.

“As the deadline for the final negotiation on the TPPA in Maui draws near, it’s critical the Government doesn’t sacrifice affordable medicines for a trivial gain in dairy access. While TPPA negotiating texts have been shared with corporate lobbyists, they are closed to us. If there was more openness we would not be at the mercy of misrepresentation and spin from corporate vested interests.”


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