Robb promises US longer TPP monopolies on biologic drugs

Media Release February 25, 2016

The US Politico publication reported this week that trade envoy Andrew Robb has reassured US pharmaceutical companies that the TPP will provide “at least eight years of market protection” for expensive biologic drugs, and “potentially as long as 12 to 17 years in Australia’s case”.

Mr Robb is in the US to try to persuade a reluctant U.S. Congress of the benefits of the TPP.

All presidential candidates are opposing the TPP, and Congress will not vote on it until after the November presidential election.

Biologic drugs are used to treat cancer and other serious diseases, and can cost tens of thousands of dollars for a course of treatment. The government subsidises the price through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. The price falls dramatically when monopoly protection ends and cheaper versions of the drugs become available. Studies have shown that each year of extended monopoly costs the PBS hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

“Mr Robb is telling one story in the US and another story in Australia,” Dr Patricia Ranald, Convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network said today.

Dr Ranald said that Mr Robb’s reassurance in the US contradict his claims in Australia that the TPP will not result in longer monopolies or extra costs despite the ambiguity of the TPP text. Australia’s current law is five years monopoly data protection. The text says that governments can provide either eight years legal protection or five years plus “other measures” which would deliver a “comparable market outcome” of another 3 years through administrative means.”

“But in the US Mr Robb is claiming tha, Australia’s current regime can already result in administrative delays which deliver an outcome of at least eight years of monopoly, rather than the five years in legislation,” said Dr Ranald.

“The TPP will lock in these delays, creating a legal obligation to deliver the comparable market outcome of at least eight years. Studies show that each year of delay of cheaper forms of biologics costs the PBS hundreds of millions of dollars. This cost will not show up immediately, but is a future time bomb for cost blowouts.”

“The Australian government should not be using the TPP to lock in administrative delays which will extend monopolies on biologic drugs and delay cheaper forms of these drugs from becoming available in future. Instead, it should retain the flexibility to reduce delays in the availability of cheaper drugs. The TPP removes this possibility”.

“We will be using the current TPP Parliamentary inquiry to expose these issues and urge the Senate not to support the TPP implementing legislation if it is not in Australia’s interest,” said Dr Ranald.