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US White Paper on medicines ?window-dressing'

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), facing a deluge of condemnation over the impact of its trade policy on affordable medicines, today issued a four-page white paper entitled 'Trade Enhancing Access to Medicines (TEAM), Jane Kelsey said.

Jane Kelsey has been in Chicago for the latest round of talks on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Critics of the US position slammed the USTR for releasing the paper on the same day it tabled its most controversial provisions that will restrict access to medicines at the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations in Chicago.

Peter Maybarduk from the Public Citizen Global Access to Medicines Program said 'the paper fails entirely to address those provisions, or the other elements of its aggressive intellectual property proposal that would restrict access to medicines.'

He described it as mere 'window dressing for USTR's pro-Big Pharma, anti-access to medicines status quo.'

Professor Sean Flynn from the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, American University Washington College of Law expressed the frustration voiced by many 'stakeholders' following the negotiations.

'The statement of the administration today continues its practice of actively thwarting the release of meaningful information about its positions in closed door international law making. The statement says little about what the administration's actual trade policy on medicines issues is or what justifies it.'

'Thanks to leaked proposals, we know what the administration's actual position is. This administration has endorsed a set of policy proposals in its trade negotiations with developing countries that is much worse for access to medicine concerns than any other past administration.'

'The administration is proposing to grant patent rights on substances that are already discovered, increase in-transit seizures on medicines, extend monopoly rights through data protection that operate independent of patent rights, get rid of the so-called "May 10th" deal with the Bush Administration and Congress protecting key access to medicines flexibilities in developing countries, and add a first ever restriction on the operation of pharmaceutical reimbursement programs as a cost saving mechanism in developing countries', Professor Flynn explained.

Another critic of the implications of the TPPA for public health, Krista Cox of Knowledge Ecology International, described the 'white paper' as 'basically four pages of spin and PR with little to no substance.'

'This is the PhRMA/BIO version of how to promote access, with the White House logo, in a large trade negotiation.' The result would be 'access for people who can afford to pay monopoly prices for medicine. In developing countries, that is certainly not going to achieve access to medicine for all.'

Matthew Kavanagh from International HIV-Aids campaigners Health-Gap, who protested last week in Chicago, objected that 'ensuring the profits of multinational pharmaceutical industry has not proven an effective strategy for getting medicines to people in need, since they are largely unaffordable for both patients and health programs'.

Claims from the Obama administration that 'multinational pharmaceuticals are withholding life-saving drugs from patients for in developing countries for periods of time in order to maximize profits should trigger investigations of unethical practices, not efforts to shift policy toward ensuring those profits.'

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