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Doctors across the country at TPPA protests

Doctors across the country at TPPA protests concerned about medicine costs

Doctors have responded angrily to statements from the Prime Minister that last weekend’s protesters were “misinformed” and “rent-a-crowd”. Doctors, other health professionals, and their families braved the weather and turned out across the country to protest the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

“Minister Groser and Prime Minister Key continue to trot out the line that we, the ideologically misguided and uninformed health professionals, are needlessly worrying about PHARMAC. It is unfortunate that senior politicians have trivialised concerns of many dedicated, well-informed professionals. The cost of medicines to the health system is a genuine concern.” said Dr Erik Monasterio, a Christchurch psychiatrist, speaking for Doctors for Healthy Trade.

"PHARMAC is one part of keeping medicines affordable; patent and intellectual property law is another part. The US Trade Representative publicly declared he wanted to bring about changes to New Zealand’s medicines management system. PHARMAC has been clearly in his sights in the TPPA negotiations” said Associate Professor David Menkes of Hamilton. ” Even the Prime Minister now concedes medicine prices will go up -- the main cause is patent and intellectual property law. Moreover, the TPPA opens the door to drug companies and other corporations being able to sue the government for lost profits.” said Professor Menkes.

The Canadian Government declined to extend a drug patent beyond the normal monopoly period because the company (Eli Lilly) had not provided sufficient evidence that the medicine would deliver promised long-term benefits. The Canadian court agreed that a single study involving only 22 patients didn’t count as robust evidence to extend the monopoly. The company is now using a trade agreement, analogous to the TPPA, to sue Canada for $500 million in damages.

“We know that, in the TPPA, our government has already agreed to allow medicines patents to be extended here, something that has cost Australia millions of taxpayer funds since it was brought in there” said Dr. Pat Neuwelt, a public health physician at the University of Auckland. “On top of patent extensions, the other changes to patent and intellectual property law we have seen in leaked versions of the TPPA would result in drugs being even more expensive for longer “she said.

Dr George Laking, cancer specialist of Auckland added “The special arrangements proposed in the TPPA for ‘biologic’ medicines would add further to rising costs. A longer monopoly for just seven high cost biologic medicines in New Zealand could add up to $25m-$50m per extra year of monopoly. This is at a time when Government is saying that PHARMAC will not be receiving substantial additional funding to its budget, and at a time when New Zealander’s are missing out on important medications, because the costs are beyond PHARMAC’s budget. The Prime Minister doesn't seem to understand how much the TPPA will change the operating environment to weaken PHARMAC's negotiating power. We need to see the full document and the government’s analysis so we are no longer in the dark about the details of these figures” said Dr Laking.

Supporters of Doctors for Healthy Trade work in all medical specialities right across New Zealand.


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