What the Trans-Pacific Partnership means for health

By Sharon Smith
Thursday, 08 October, 2015

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was signed this week, with 12 countries including Australia agreeing to a trade deal which now needs to pass their relevant government processes for final approval.
In our current Spring edition Deborah Gleeson and Ruth Lopert discussed the impact the deal could have on Australia’s biologic medicines, with close to 40% of the global economy being held in the hands of the US who currently hold the majority of pharmaceutical patents.
To quote Gleeson and Lopert,
Throughout the negotiations, the US has sought to extend and expand intellectual property protections for medicines in a variety of ways. These include (among others) expanding the scope of patentability to include new forms and new methods of using existing products, extending the term of patents beyond 20 years, and preventing regulatory agencies from aproving generics where there is a patent on the original product.
But thankfully the latest round of negotiations in Canada which took part prior to the signing, saw ‘data exclusivity’ or the ability for the original manufacturers of medications to block licences of generics limited to a period of five years. This is down from the eight years negotiated in the previous round, and the twelve years which the US had been pushing.
Some health groups including Medicines Australia are disappointed with the agreement, citing in a statement, "We are aware of some instances already in which biological medicines were not brought to the Australian market due to Australia's short data protection period."
Unfortunately, the public health front is still under threat thanks to the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause which could allow companies including alcohol, soft drink and junk food manufacturers to sue governments who impinge on their ‘ability to make money’.
It is worth noting however, that we still do not know the full terms of the TPP (which has been most of the problem during its 4+ years of negotiation), and will not know until the governments of all parties involved sign off on the complete agreement.

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