EU-Australia trade agreement could mean higher medicine prices say experts
25 September 2018: A recent article in The Conversation by public health experts confirms that the EU is seeking stronger monopolies on medicines, including the most expensive biologic medicines used to treat cancer and other life-threatening diseases. This would delay the availability of cheaper versions of those medicines. If Australia agrees, these provisions would have the likely effect of extending the period for which Australia pays higher prices for very expensive medicines.
Under the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS), the government subsidises the cost of medicines to make them affordable. If Australia caves to EU pressure, taxpayers’ funds will be used to continue paying higher prices for biologic medicines for longer through the PBS. The authors found that the cost of biologic medicines totalled more than $2 billion in 2015-16 alone, and that this could be reduced by 24%, or $480 million per year if cheaper forms of these medicines had been available sooner.
The authors urge the Australian government not to agree to EU demands for longer medicine monopolies, which would result in higher costs and fewer resources for other key health needs.
These authors and humanitarian medical organisations like Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have demonstrated how successive extension of medical monopolies through trade agreements benefits big global pharmaceutical companies, but impedes access to affordable medicines. AFTINET has consistently argued against using medicine monopolies as a bargaining chip in trade agreements.