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Sunday, 28 July 2013

It is still a bitter pill to swallow

PETALING JAYA: The 18th round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agree-ment (TPP) negotiations in Kota Kinabalu concluded on Thursday but the issue of pharmaceuticals remains up in the air.

While US biggest lobby group for drug companies PhRMA argued that strong intellectual property protections would encourage investments and developments in new pharmaceutical areas, Malaysian Pharma-ceutical Society (MPS) president Datuk Nancy Ho is taking an opposing view, claiming that possible patent extension might further impede the growth of the local pharmaceutical industry, specifically the generic pharmaceutical industry.

“Our local pharmaceutical industry is growing steadily and produces 35% of Malaysia’s medicines requirement by value.

“A lot of investment is going into developing quality pharmaceuticals and the vision of the pharmaceutical industry is to ensure accessibility to affordable medicines,” said Ho, adding that it was crucial for Malaysia to protect the local pharmaceutical industry.

“I am without doubt pro-trade for the economic growth and transformation of the country but we must protect our local industry and provide a level-playing ground for all and not encourage any dominance by bigger players,” she said.

The recently concluded TPP round witnessed the participation of more than 650 officials from Australia, Bru­nei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malay­sia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singa­pore, the United States and Vietnam. On Tuesday, Japan joined in as the 12th member of the TPP negotiations.

Another concern that arose was that the TPP may result in higher cost of medicines.

“The MPS advocates quality use of medicines and we are concerned that the TPP will push the country’s drug bill up. It is hoped that negotiations will fully take into consideration the impact of the TPP to propagate WHO’s thrust of ‘Health For All’ on a win-win basis for all the stakeholders,” Ho said.

Earlier, international humanitarian group Doctors without Borders (MSF) issued an open letter to TPP countries expressing “serious concern” about the same issue.

“The trade agreement threatens to restrict access to affordable medicines for millions of people, especially in low and middle-income countries.

“Unless certain damaging provisions are removed, the TPP has the potential to become the most harmful pact ever for access to medicines,” said the international medical huma­nitarian organisation which delivers medical care to people affected by armed conflicts, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare in nearly 70 countries.

Calling negotiating countries to reject provisions that will harm access to medicines and affect global public health commitments, MSF pointed out that the existing medical research and development system today does not deliver innovation for neglected populations.

Tags / Keywords: Health , TPP , pharmaceuticals


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