Marty Harris is an assistant digital editor at the Lowy Institute.
Thanks to reader John Ballard for pointing us to this report in the Washington Post on the leaked intellectual property chapter from the draft Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
This follows Stephen Grenville's post last week on secrecy and the TPP.
The Post asks George Washington University professor Susan Sell some questions about the chapter, one of which is 'What are the implications for access to medicine worldwide?' (emphasis mine):
The United States is proposing a number of provisions designed to strengthen and extend brand-name pharmaceutical companies’ monopoly privileges. For example, several provisions would support the pharmaceutical firms’ practice of “ever-greening” in which a firm will hold a patent on drug x in tablet form, then later obtain a patent on drug x in a gel cap, and later still obtain another patent on the same drug in capsule form. This extends patent life on a known substance, despite no new medical efficacy; thus it delays generic competition.
The United States seeks patents for new uses of a known product (all other countries but Australia oppose this). The United States alone proposes damages for patent infringement of up to three times the amount of injury suffered... The United States also proposes giving customs officials ex officio powers to seize goods in transit that are suspected of being counterfeit. Several years ago European seizures of lawfully produced Indian generic drugs en route to customers in Africa and Brazil threatened to disrupt generic supply chains, and India threatened to take its dispute over this practice to the World Trade Organization. Other U.S. proposals would create exclusive new rights over clinical trial data, so that generic firms would be prohibited from using those results to prove efficacy and bioequivalence. The United States also proposes patents for medical procedures. Overall, these provisions would reduce generic competition, reduce access to medicines, and raise drug prices. This seems ironic in light of Obama’s professed domestic commitment to affordable health care.