Indonesia health expert warns of public health risks under RCEP trade deal

26 November 2018: Indonesian health specialist Eva Novi Karina has warned of the possible dangers to public health in Indonesia and other developing countries if the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal is signed. The RCEP is being negotiated between the 10 South-East Asian ASEAN nations along with China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand which together total around 50% of the world’s population.

Under the leaked proposals being pushed by Japan and South Korea, patents over medicines would be extended in Indonesia and other developing countries, to allow for new forms and uses of existing medicines, even when there is no evidence of improved effectiveness. This will delay the ability to produce generic medicines, translating to higher costs for governments which subsidise expensive branded medicines, and reduced access to essential medicines overall. Most RCEP countries do not currently provide extended patents for new uses of existing drugs which fail to show improved effectiveness. Karina argues the obligations under the draft RCEP proposals “is in conflict with the interest of the Indonesian government especially to provide more affordable medicines for its people.”

Another tactic under the proposals to delay cheaper medicines being produced is data exclusivity. Under these provisions data from the tests conducted to produce pharmaceuticals will be protected for at least six extra years after the end of patent protections, extending big pharmaceutical monopolies for longer.

Karina reiterates what Australian public health experts have also been saying; successive extensions of medical monopolies negotiated in secrecy through trade agreements benefit big global pharmaceutical companies while impeding access to affordable medicine. She argues these provisions should be discussed openly, with public oversight and input, otherwise “it will amount to corporate capture of Indonesia’s patent system”.

Delegates from heath and community organisations from across the globe met last week at the 4th Global People's Health Assembly and released a statement opposing the RCEP, which you can sign on to here.