Trans-Pacific Partnership Threatens HIV Patients Overseas

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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 does… well, it does a lot of things, and it’s definitely worth looking into all its possible effects, but today I’m talking about one in particular: intellectual property and, specifically, drug patents. According to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (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 people’s health.

Of course it’s possible that pharmaceutical companies won’t extend their patents as long as humanly possible like they tend to do. Anything is possible. It’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 I’ve previously written about Wyden’s ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

I don’t know if the TPP can be stopped. It’s huge and encompasses so much, even MSF is appealing for help “fixing” the TPP, not “stopping” the TPP. But perhaps we can make sure that the lives of people in developing countries with HIV—and not just HIV; many life-threatening diseases are fought with generic drugs—aren’t cut off from the medicine they need to survive.