House Democrats, Advocates Blast Trade Deal Protections For Drug Companies

House Democrats and health care advocates blasted drug patent provisions in a current draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement on Friday, criticizing the Obama administration for advancing policies that could drive up drug global drug costs.

Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), together with health advocates and a representative of the generic drug maker Mylan, called on the Obama administration to change aspects of the 12-nation Pacific Rim trade pact that would strengthen pharmaceutical patent monopolies. Speaking to reporters on a conference call, they said the measures would make it harder for generic drugs to come to market in countries that sign the agreement, including the United States.

The TPP agreement’s chapter on intellectual property for drugs “confirms some of the worst fears of health care advocates,”said DeLauro, who has access to the agreement’s classified draft text. If the current draft of TPP becomes law, she warned, “You can freeze cheaper generic drugs out of the market.”

In addition to the impact this could have on lower- and middle-income countries involved in TPP negotiations, like Vietnam, the provisions “will mean increased costs for Medicare and Medicaid, which will have a devastating effect on seniors” in the U.S., DeLauro said.

One thing fueling critics’ concerns is a mandatory “patent linkage” provision in the draft text, which would prevent governments from approving generic drugs if there is any possibility that they violate a patent. This could dissuade generic drug makers from entering poorer or smaller countries, since overcoming stringent patent barriers has less of a payoff than in larger or wealthier nations like the United States.

Although the United States already has mandatory “patent linkage” requirements in place, the requirements in the current TPP draft are broader, said Nawel Rojkjaer, senior director of international affairs for Mylan. Currently, generic drug makers are only —> Read More