MSF says RCEP proposals still a risk to affordable medicines

July 23, 2018:  As RCEP negotiators meet in Bangkok, Leena Manghaney from Doctors without Borders (MSF)  writes  in the Bangkok Post that, after six years and 23 rounds of negotiations, Japan and South Korea are still proposing stronger monopolies in addition to the standard 20 year monopoly for new medicines.

She writes that India has long been called the "pharmacy of the developing world”, using flexibilities under existing WTO rules to supply affordable generic versions of medicines patented elsewhere. But this model is under threat from the Japanese and South Korean proposals.

Longer monopolies would keep newer life-saving medicines out of reach for people who need them. Some examples are newer hepatitis C drugs, drugs to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis and cancer, and biologic medicines. Many ASEAN countries have used existing rules to make these available at affordable prices to their populations.

But pharmaceutical companies want to end these flexibilities. The Japanese and South Korean RCEP proposals would further delay the availability of cheaper generic forms of medicines for half of the world’s population in the 16 RCEP countries, which include several of the poorest countries in the region.

The article urges India and the ASEAN countries to stand firm against such proposals. AFTINET and public health groups in Australia and other RCEP countries have also urged the Australian and other governments to oppose them.