Tuesday, 26 June 2012

'Trade pact may increase cost of medicine'



A warning has been sounded, urging Malaysia against signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) trade pact, as this would have a negative impact on both the government and consumers.

It would lead to higher prices of medicine for consumers, as well as cost the government its sovereignty and ability to formulate effective public policy, said those lobbying against the proposal.

charles santiago water bill issue 020207 talk“The TPP will make medicines very expensive. Most Malaysians will not be able to afford to buy medication ...,” claimed the DAP’s Klang parliamentarian Charles Santiago (left) at a press conference in the Parliament lobby today.

“What this means is that, if you are sick, then you are doomed.”

This is because the agreement will exclude generic brands from the market place, forcing patients to buy only brand-name medicines that cost much more.

"If you have cancer, your medicines will cost about RM9,865 a month. But generic drugs will only cost you RM370... with the TPP, you will have to pay RM9,865," he said.

He also expressed disbelief that the government is "hell bent on signing" the TPP when this may not attract foreign investment, but will potentially pose hardships to the rakyat.

drug patentFifa Rahman of Harm Reduction International warned that the TPP will not stop at drugs but will also have an impact on medical procedures and surgeries.

"The US has demanded that new medical procedures and diagnostics methods be patented," she disclosed.

This will require a fee to be paid to the patent holder every time a medical procedure or diagnostic test is performed.

"A doctor might tell you ‘I cannot save you life because we have to pay to perform the operation’."

Fifa said the TPP will also require border control measures which would remove the option to bring in cheaper generic drugs, as the authorities can seize these while in transit.

Exposure to lawsuits

The agreement would also open the government to potential lawsuits by foreign corporations, to claim damages if their sales drop due to government laws that regulate the industries in which they are involved.

This will not only have an impact on Malaysia’s sovereignty but also on the elected government’s ability to formulate and pursue policies.

pkr congress pc 271110 molly cheahDr Molly Cheah of the Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control related how similar pacts have exposed governments to legal suits by foreign companies when domestic laws and regulations were seen as being the cause of declining product sales.

This has been apparent in the tobacco industry where governments have been sued for implementing tobacco control regulations, she said.

The concerns highlighted today were based on several documents pertaining to ongoing negotiations on the TPP.

The TPP, currently in the 13th round of negotiations, is a proposed pact between Pacific Rim countries like the US, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.

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