Don’t get sick. Twelve nations are involved in secret trade negotiations that would make the cost of life-saving medicines skyrocket.
The negotiating nations are not all created equal. They are the United States, Chile, Peru, Japan, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Mexico, Canada, Vietnam, and Brunei Darussalam. Shrouded in the kind of secrecy that’s reserved for military ambush strategies, the proposed provisions to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), should they take effect following an upcoming vote this October, will change our access to medicines. At its core, the partnership agreement’s new provisions aim to stamp out the competition against BigPharma’s monopoly. It will do so by throwing its full legal weight behind restrictive intellectual property laws that will make generic drugs dead on arrival. Poor folks and developing nations alike would lose access to treatments while those with access would be faced with unfathomable bills.
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Push, Peddle, And Bribe
Pfizer, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, and Eli Lilly are among the multi-national pharmaceutical companies that comprise the cabal of corporate giants incentivized to rake in obscene profits by claiming that the cost of research and development is so prohibitively expensive. According to their egregious narrative, they have no choice but to crush generic brands and protect their patents so that they can generate the monies needed to fund research. Having to charge exorbitant prices that no one can afford, which may leave patients financially crippled for the rest of their lives, is just the cost of being in the life-saving business.
In 2012, Glaxo had to pay a record-setting $3 billion to resolve allegations of kickbacks and peddling their patented prescription drugs for unapproved treatments. They’re not alone. BigPharma routinely engages in numerous schemes and “marketing” techniques to monopolize the global market and drive sales. They use sex, food, gifts, vacations, and cash as regular perks. According to Bloomberg News, “Chinese officials said Glaxo used travel agencies as a conduit for bribes, that company executives received ‘sexual bribes,’ and that other drugmakers have transferred money to the agencies.”
As of July 2012, the industry has shelled out $30.2 in civil and criminal settlements over a 20-year period.
Profits Vs. Humanity
TPP will mean different things to different nationals, its impact ranging from unjust to unbelievably sinister. In America, there is a guarded class of citizens, albeit dwindling, whose health insurance policies will shoulder huge portions of unaffordable medicines to treat everything from infectious diseases to yearlong therapeutic drugs that treat Hepatitis C. But in indebted countries throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia, like Greece, Uganda, Somalia, and Myanmar, where access to affordable medicine and healthcare has already reached a crisis, any rescission of generic drugs will spell life or death on a grand scale. Wealthier neighbors around the globe will not be spared, as BigPharma devours markets, leaving behind masses of sick and dying in the quest for deeper pockets.
Clearly, the face of the uninsured, the sick, the unemployed, the disenfranchised, the neighbor suffering from heart disease who just lost his house in foreclosure, has done nothing to humanize the debate about patents. Patents and their ongoing reign over industry are simply about money. It’s not about sparking competition. It’s not about engendering creativity or innovation, or luring some genius technology out a of black hole. And it’s certainly not about passing down a great legacy to the next generation.
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As a single global body that shares air, water, food sources, airplane rides, CO2 emissions, and commonly traded goods, our greatest strength is wellness and our most exploited flaw is systemically sustained sickness. The solution lies in a dramatic shift of consciousness, a common will for structural change, and a concerted effort to stay as healthy a hive as possible.
The upcoming vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement will affect:
The AIDS crisis was a cautionary tale, as it exposed excruciatingly painful deaths, non-stop funerals, and the obliteration of entire villages in Sub-Saharan Africa, side by side with the existence of medicines that could have relieved pain, curbed symptoms, and in some cases, saved lives.
Speaking at a webcast symposium hosted by Doctor’s Without Borders on September 5, 2013, Dylan Mohan Gray, the filmmaker of Fire In The Blood, a documentary that examines the HIV/AIDS crisis in the late 1990s and early 2000s, remarks, “There is no justification for these high prices.”
Or the lack of access to affordable treatments, for that matter. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has claimed more than 25 million lives since 1981. Panelist James Love, Director, Knowledge Ecology Foundation, adds:
“In the long run, to really have a fair system to change things, you have to realize that Plan A, which is the grant of the monopoly … is not working, is not acceptable. It’s not a system you can really tolerate anymore. And we have to move to Plan B and Plan B has to be a system where drugs are priced for the cost of making copies, just the generic drugs, and you have to have other ways of funding R&D—some combination of grants, new incentive systems like innovation prize funds, and things like that. But you have to delink the way that you finance R&D from the price of drugs. You can not have sick patients around the world expect to be the people you look toward when you want to do it, and then be shocked when the majority of the world’s population is left out of the access of that equation.”
According to Maira Sutton of Electronic Frontier Foundation, “The copyright provisions in the TPP will carve a highly restrictive copyright regime into stone and prevent countries from enacting laws that best address and promote users’ interests.”
In short, patent barriers will restrict the production and distribution of generic drugs, and eviscerate the power of sovereign countries that have to cave in to trade pressures. Without a public outcry, the repercussions of TPP will be long-lasting and grave. The $8 to $10 billion a year in savings from generic drugs?
Wiped out. Generic-brand savings passed on to hospitals and patients? Poof. Indian generic drugs from Canada? Gone. If you or your grandfather needs expensive medicines, you’ll need high-paying policies to bail you out, because the high cost of falling ill will get that much more outlandish.