TPPA: Protect Affordable Medicine


Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli (CNBC/screen grab) 

One of the most controversial points in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is over the US-led push to extend monopolies for Big Pharmaceutical companies. 

Public pressure is working, Trade Minister Tim Groser has so far refused to backdown to Big Pharma's demands. [1] But he's still determined to see this dirty deal through to the bitter end. 

Representatives from around the world will return to the negotiating table next week – and if they don't seal the deal now, the entire thing could fall over. 

Can you make sure that when Minister Groser returns to the table, he receives a clear message from thousands of New Zealanders about the need to protect affordable medicines? 

Overnight, the price of a drug used for treating patients with AIDS jumped 5500% – from $13.50 a pill to $750, when the CEO of an American pharmaceutical company, decided he needed a bigger profit. [2] The TPPA will create the ideal environment for Big Pharma to pull moves like this, by delaying competition from cheaper generic brands. 

Let Trade Minister Groser know it's the people who rely on medicines who need protection, not Big Pharmaceuticals. Your email will also be sent to Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman and Associate Minister of Trade Todd McClay.


[1] Pharmac TPP fears dismissed, NZ Herald, 03 July 2015
[2] Entrepreneur defends decision to raise price of life-saving drug 50-fold, The Guardian, 22 September 2015

Not sure what to say? Here are some talking points:

  • The TPP will put affordable medicines at risk 

The US Big Pharmaceutical lobby is pushing for an extension of data exclusivity period for medicines, especially 'biologics'. Before a new medicine is manufactured, it undergoes extensive testing to ensure it's safe. Generic medicine manufacturers currently need to wait five years before they can access this data to produce more affordable versions of the medicine.

The US wants to increase this period from five, to eight or even twelve years, which would delay the introduction of cheaper generic medicines into the market, making medicines more expensive for New Zealanders. Imagine having to pay $50-$100 - or more - for a simple asthma inhaler. That's the average cost in the US, when they currently sell for less than $15 here.

‘Biologics’ are hugely expensive drugs made by biological processes that are revolutionizing the treatment of cancer and many other serious conditions. For the 7 most expensive biologics currently in NZ, each extra year under monopoly would cost an extra $25-50 million dollars. With many more promising biologic drugs due to come on line over the next few years, this figure would increase dramatically.

  • New Zealanders don't want to any part of a deal that will give special privileges to foreign corporations to sue our government. 

Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) is a provision that allows a foreign corporation to sue governments for policy decisions they believe harm their investments.

ISDS can be used for very legitimate purposes, for example if a government was to nationalise a private company – but it could also be used to sue governments for actions taken in the public interest, such as banning harmful pesticides, or placing a moratorium on fracking to protect water resources.

The risks of ISDS aren't merely hypotheticals, we're already seeing them played out in countries like Canada, El Salvador and Australia.

  • New Zealanders don't know much about what's in the TPPA – but what we know is bad news.

Most of the information we have so far is from leaks to media or groups like Wikileaks, and what we're seeing there is alarming. Health experts, including Doctors for Healthy Trade and Medecins Sans Frontieres, are concerned about the implications for costs and prices of health products. This agreement is broad and sweeping - and from what we know about it so far, it's not something many New Zealanders would be comfortable signing onto. Our political leaders should stand up for our sovereignty and stand against the TPPA.


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  • commented 2016-09-25 14:07:54 +1300
    It irks me to call you Minister. Listen up Groser, your’e a polly scumbag and what you are doing is totally abhorent to any New Zealander that has an interest in what you are doing. You are taking advantage of the pathetic interest of the average Kiwi. Your job is to listen to the people and make decisions based on that. Not following your own agenda.

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