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Why Is This Peruvian Woman With HIV Speaking Out Against an International Trade Agreement?

Advocates Say the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Could Prevent Access to Life-Saving Medications for Millions

September 28, 2015

Oppose the Patent Protection Provision in the TPP Agreement: Why Is This Peruvian Woman with HIV Speaking Out Against an International Trade Agreement?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed trade agreement among the United States and 11 other nations around the Pacific Ocean: Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico and Brunei Darussalam. Negotiations of this agreement have been conducted in secret, but some of the proposed text has been leaked, including the chapter on intellectual property rights and patent protections.

Rachel, a woman living with HIV in Peru, states in the video below: "Because of competition and generic medications, the price of my treatment has dropped from US$10,000 to US$150 per year." The video says that the TPP patent protection provision would mean "more monopolies, less competition, fewer generic medications, that is: higher prices." One of the participants in the video calls such price increases "a luxury' she cannot afford.

The current proposal for the intellectual property chapter prohibits signatory countries from approving generic or biosimilar medications for eight years after a brand-name drug has been approved. Advocates say such a delay would deny people living with cancer, HIV and other serious medical conditions access to affordable life-saving medications. This, in turn, could affect the lives -- indeed, the very survival -- of millions of people in the developing world, according to Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF). Judit Rius Sanjuan, MSF's U.S. manager explains:

Pharmaceutical companies already enjoy some of the highest profit margins and longest monopoly protections of any industry, and granting them extended and additional market exclusivity is just another way to delay price-lowering competition and keep medicines out of reach of MSF medical operations and millions of people.

A multinational campaign against the provision is collecting signatures on a petition to be delivered to the next (and possibly final) TPP meeting to be held September 30-October 2 in Atlanta, GA. The petition is available online. The campaign has also assembled statements from people living in countries that would be affected by this chapter of the agreement.

U.S. activist Zahara Heckscher says:

Biologic medicines such as trastuzumab have extended the lives of women like me with breast cancer by years and have saved thousands of lives. ... We are calling this proposal 'the death sentence clause' in the TPP because it would sentence tens of thousands of people to unnecessary suffering and early death.

In addition to asking people to sign the petition, campaign leaders want supporters to share their video, saying it will help protect millions of people who live with HIV and other long-term illnesses.

Barbara Jungwirth is a freelance writer and translator based in New York.

Follow Barbara on Twitter: @reliabletran.

Copyright © 2015 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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