Australia should reject US push for even longer TPP medicine monopolies

MEDIA RELEASE, November 7 2016:  “The Australian government should reject the push from US Republican Congress members to increase biologic medicine monopolies by seven years, even more than the extra three years which has already been agreed in the TPP text,” Dr Patricia Ranald, Convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network said today. 

Because both US presidential candidates oppose the TPP, its future is highly uncertain unless there is sufficient support from Congress to ratify the agreement during the ‘lame duck’ period after the November 8 election. Some Republicans close to pharmaceutical companies have insisted they will only support the TPP if other governments agree to increase data protection monopolies to 12 years.  US news reports now suggest that TPP governments may have agreed to “clarify” that they will do this.

Dr Ranald said that this was totally unacceptable. She explained that global pharmaceutical companies already have 20 years of monopoly patents on medicines before cheaper versions become available. Biologic medicines, which treat cancer and other serious disease, cost thousands of dollars per treatment. They are only accessible to patients because they are subsidised through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Data protection is a separate monopoly which further delays the availability of cheaper forms of those medicines. The price falls dramatically as cheaper versions become available.

The current Australian law is five years for data protection, but the TPP text already requires administrative measures which would deliver a “market outcome” equivalent to an extra three years of monopoly, a total of eight years. Studies show that each year of delay in cheaper versions of these medicines would cost the PBS hundreds of millions of dollars. It also removes flexibility to reduce delays in the availability of cheaper drugs.

“The extra three years of monopoly in the current TPP text is already unacceptable. It is outrageous that the US is demanding an even greater increase, a total of seven years of extra monopoly.  This would be a time bomb for PBS cost blowouts, leading to pressure for price rises at the chemist. We call on the Australian and other governments to reject this proposal,” said Dr Ranald.

“This demand highlights the flaws in the TPP, which is not about free trade, but is about the extension of monopolies and corporate rights. Our submission to the current Senate Inquiry calls on the majority in the Senate to block the TPP implementing legislation,” said Dr Ranald.