Senator Sanders calls for better trade policy on access to medicines and public release of TPPA text

On December 1, 2011, Senator Sanders (I-VT) sent a letter to United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Kirk, objecting to USTR’s position with regard to access to medicines in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and the apparent retreat from the May 10th Agreement. Senator Sanders also objects to the secrecy of the negotiations and calls for the public release of the TPPA negotiating texts. Full text of the letter is available for download here.

In his letter, Senator Sanders calls for incorporation of the May 10th Agreement and also that the following principles be incorporated:

  • The WTO Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health principles apply to all diseases and medical conditions, including non-communicable diseases
  • TPP standards should be flexible and reflect the diverse economies and public health systems among the developed and developing partner countries;
  • The scope of patentability provisions should not force countries to patent new forms of old products without increase in therapeutic efficacy;
  • The TPP should not prohibit pre-grant patent opposition; and
  • The TPP should not undermine current or prospective, non-discriminatory drug reimbursement policies and programs in the United States (e.g. Medicare, Medicaid, VA, and other safety net programs) or in other countries

The letter also addresses concerns raised by the text tabled by USTR in September 2011 during the eighth round of negotiations in Chicago. Senator Sanders notes that the Trade Enhancing Access to Medicines (TEAM) approach is a:

disingenuously named initiative does not balance trade with access to medicines. Rather, it would erect even higher intellectual property barriers to affordable generic medicines for millions. For example, the so-called “access window” it proposes would in fact close-off access by lengthening the time before affordable generics become available in each country as a result of lengthened data exclusivity periods and other monopoly entitlements that would be granted to brand name drug companies. THe purported benefit, available only to those developing nations that rely on registration by referral, would be illusory as the brand name pharmaceutical manufacturers would not even be required to actually register the drugs in the developing nations but would become entitled to patent linkage, patent term extensions, and data exclusivity simply by initiating registration.

Senator Sanders concludes with a call for greater transparency and release of the negotiating texts:

Finally, I firmly believe that the public has a right to monitor and express informed views on proposals of such magnitude as the TPP. While I recognize that some opportunity has been provided for the public to make presentations to delegates, I urge you to make the negotiating text of the TPP available to the public for review and comment. Without access to the actual texts being discussed, in my view the effective input and informed participation of the public is severely curtailed.
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