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Power of balance poised to tip even further

Power of balance poised to tip even further in favour of drug companies

International reports suggest that the latest proposal under the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) would effectively mean an extra three years of monopolies for biologic medicines, says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).

“If correct, this is yet another concerning aspect of the TPPA negotiations and just one more reason why the terms of this trade deal need to be more transparent,” he says.

The organisation Public Citizen says a tweaked approach to the impasse over biologics, which are medical products derived from living organisations, is apparently being explored by some TPPA negotiators – but it warns that this approach is flawed: http://www.citizen.org/documents/new-tpp-maneuvering-on-biotetch-drugs-september-2015.pdf

It says the United States trade representative has sought minimum eight-year exclusivity periods for biologics, three years more than the current exclusivity periods in many TPPA countries, including New Zealand.

“Extending pharmaceutical monopoly over medicines used by New Zealanders just further tips the balance of power away from patients, and it needs to be rejected,” says Mr Powell.

Auckland clinical microbiologist and ASMS member Joshua Freeman, who is also a leading critic of the secrecy surrounding the TPPA negotiations, says the latest TPPA proposal seeks to use a legal technicality found in Japanese law.

“It’s well understood that biologic medicines can be sold for tens of thousands of dollars while under monopoly, but once the market is opened up to competition, prices drop dramatically,” says Dr Freeman. “Lower prices mean more patients can access the medicines they need.”

The ASMS is one of several applicants to the High Court in Wellington, in a legal challenge led by Auckland University law Professor Jane Kelsey to obtain a judicial review of Trade Minister Tim Groser’s blanket refusal to release information about the TPPA under the Official Information Act.


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