LTE: Medicine Monopolies
Citizen Peter Maybarduk discusses biotech medicines.
On Sept. 5 and 6, the Leesburg Patch published two letters to the editor calling on the U.S. government to demand long monopolies for biotech medicines in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement.
Nine Asia-Pacific region countries, from Vietnam to Singapore, continue their closed-door negotiations of this broad and secretive pact with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
But the medicine monopolies that these letters recommend would lead to preventable suffering and death in many countries and lock Americans into higher healthcare costs at home.
Biotech medicines include many treatments for cancer, heart disease and other conditions that affect all of us. A twelve-year period of data exclusivity, which guarantees long biotech medicine monopolies, was included in the Affordable Care Act. Data exclusivity prevents generic competition, leaving medicine
prices very high. The new U.S. monopoly rule is very controversial.
A Federal Trade Commission report found such a rule unnecessary to promote biotech innovation, in part because of the patent protection that is already available. The White House supports reducing the exclusivity period to seven years.
Congress could reduce the monopoly period, saving Americans billions. But if the U.S. Trade Representative forces a long exclusivity period into the TPP, Americans could lose the freedom to change our own law, as we would be bound by the terms of that international agreement.
This is presumably why the biotech and pharmaceutical lobbies are fighting hard for the monopoly rule: because it will help them preclude further debate or opportunity for Americans to choose a better and less costly rule.
The text of this proposed free trade deal is secret. The single most important thing Americans can do to protect our interests in these negotiations, from our health to our pocketbooks, is insist that the negotiating texts be released to the public.
Global Access to Medicines Program
Public Citizen, Washington, DC