On July 31, 2011, I wrote very informally and perhaps very simplistically about how the TPPA will affect health. At this point of time I am better informed of specific parts contained in US demands that will arbitrarily and devastatingly affect Malaysian access to generic medicines. In the past week, negotiators from the United States Trade Representative were in Kuala Lumpur for a mini-round with Malaysian negotiators. From several meetings with negotiators and other events during the week, what can be gleaned from reactions of negotiators towards activist engagement is that Malaysian patients may be in very dire straits.
But first, the actual effect of TPPA provisions on medicines. The US is demanding patent extensions, which basically mean that patents on medicines post-TPPA could last for another 5-10 years or more on top of the required 20 years. This means that generic companies would not be able to produce more affordable generic drugs during this period of time. Malaysians would be forced to pay for the more expensive patented versions.
Persons I speak to question: 'Okay, but the government will subsidise the difference, no?'
Well, the chances of that seem slim. I spoke to an oncologist from HUKM last Sunday, and according to him costs of cancer meds alone for Malaysia would come up to RM 1 billion. According to him, this exceeds the Ministry of Health budget for all medicines.
In addition to patent extensions, the US is demanding something called 'data exclusivity'. This effectively requires that on top of patent extension periods, for an additional period, generic companies would not be able to obtain data on chemical content of the patented medicine, efficacy, information on side effects, etcetera, from the patent company. The only way for generic companies to do obtain this information would be to conduct their own scientific trial, which would cost money that generic companies do not have, and would be medically unethical as during scientific trials the control group is not given that particular medicine and the other group is.
As a result of the above provisions and more, Malaysians can expect the reduction of generic medicines available in the market. HIV/AIDS patients, cancer patients, mental health patients, Parkinson's patients, etcetera, many use generic drugs. Some of these patients pay for expensive patented medicines out of their own pockets. After the TPPA, this occurrence is bound to increase unless the Malaysian negotiators insist for an exemption of pharmaceuticals from the agreement.
Word is that the imperative from higher up is that negotiations are concluded by July 2012. It is incredibly important that health groups and patient groups rally together to assert their right to health and right to life before that time. Malaysia, don't let them trade away our lives.