Big Pharma will secretly love the TPP outcomes of longer, broader, and stronger intellectual property monopolies, but will cry crocodile tears that Obama’s USTR did not bring all the bacon home – yet. Late stages of TTP negotiations concluded this morning in Atlanta focused significantly on monopoly protections on biologics’ regulatory data where industry wanted 12 years of ironclad protections but only achieved five years of hard protection and another three years of soft protection. And industry lost its efforts to outlaw patent opposition procedures and to make it easier to gain patents on minor tweaks of known medicines. But, the USTR delivered big time for the obscenely profitable multinational pharmaceutical industry, which achieved patent term extensions to compensate for regulatory and patenting delays, mandatory patents of new uses of known medicines, data-related monopolies on both small molecule medicines and biologics, opportunities to prevent registration of generics and bio-similars if patent rights are asserted, and enhanced enforcement powers, including investor-state-dispute-settlement before prior arbiters whenever Pharma’s expectations of profits from their IP “investments” are frustrated.
Stories of major pharmaceutical companies abusing their monopoly positions to over-price medicines are sadly nothing new, but the real impact of Pharma’s extortionate pricing will be felt on the ground, in hospitals, clinics, and communities around the Pacific rim where patients, insurers, and governments will be priced out of the market or forced to forego other needed services simply to stay alive. Once again, we have a trade deal that puts profits over human lives.
The global effort to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic is dependent on continuing access to affordable medicines, 90% of which globally are generic, but the terms of the TPP threaten to delay access to newer generic HIV medicines for many years.
It is paradoxical – or criminal – that at the same time that the US is verbally committing to expand the number of people living with HIV, tuberculosis and malaria to treatment and prevention, they are undermining affordability via secret trade agreements where only industry representatives have had full and regular access to negotiation text. A close reading of the final agreement will show how closely it tracks the industry’s wish list submitted several years ago.
Although brow-beaten negotiators finally caved in to US pressure, there is still opportunity to fight the passage of the TPP and its dangerous IP provisions in Congress and in the court of public opinion. People in the US don’t want to pay high prices for a longer period of time for needed medicines nor do they think that people in other countries should do so either. But unless people demand that Congress stand up to longer and more burdensome pharmaceutical monopolies, Big Pharma will have succeeded in ratcheting up IP protections a couple new notches and will seek even stronger and longer monopolies in future agreements.