Trans-Pacific Partnership Threatens HIV Patients Overseas
By TJ Acena, PQ Monthly
As the Trans-Pacific Partnership comes closer to becoming a reality, the future of those with HIV in developing countries becomes unclear. The TPP is a trade agreement (like NAFTA) that doesâ€¦ well, it does a lot of things, and itâ€™s definitely worth looking into all its possible effects,Â but today Iâ€™m talking about one in particular: intellectual property and, specifically, drug patents. According to Doctors Without Borders/MÃ©decins Sans FrontiÃ¨res (MSF):
Damaging intellectual property rules in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) would give pharmaceutical companies longer monopolies over brand name drugs. Companies would be able to charge high prices for longer periods of time. And it would be much harder for generic companies to produce cheaper drugs that are vital to peopleâ€™s health.
Of course itâ€™s possible that pharmaceutical companies wonâ€™t extend their patents as long as humanly possible like they tend to do. Anything is possible. Itâ€™s also possible that the TPP would allow pharmaceutical companies to sue governments that negatively affect their profits. As with giant international deals, a lot of weight gets thrown around, and the United States has thrown around quite a bit, and often to the benefit of pharmaceutical companies. Now senators in the U.S. are trying their hardest to push through the TPP, including our own Senator Ron Wyden. Wyden has pushed for protections of labor rights, the environment, and the internet in the TPP. However, Wyden has not pushed for protecting vulnerable people in developing countries whose lives depend on affordable generic drugs. One of the reasons this story caught my eye is because Iâ€™ve previously written about Wydenâ€™s ties to the pharmaceutical industry. I donâ€™t know if the TPP can be stopped. Itâ€™s huge and encompasses so much, even MSF is appealing for help â€œfixingâ€ the TPP, not â€œstoppingâ€ the TPP. But perhaps we can make sure that the lives of people in developing countries with HIVâ€”and not just HIV; many life-threatening diseases are fought with generic drugsâ€”arenâ€™t cut off from the medicine they need to survive.