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CTAC News

Urgent Action Requested: Call for Canadian Organizations to endorse statement about access to medicines threatened by secret trade negotiations

november 21, 2013

Deadline for sign-on:  close of business, Thursday November 21st

 

Please indicate if your organization will sign on to the text of the statement below about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its threat to access to medicines.  Send your confirmation and the name of your organization to Richard Elliott at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network at relliott@aidslaw.ca.  Please reply by the end of the day on Thursday, November 21 (and sooner if possible).

 

WHAT’S THE ISSUE?

 

Negotiators from the 12 countries – including Canada – are negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah now, in the latest round of negotiations.  There is intense pressure on countries to trade away important public interests in order to conclude this latest trade agreement.

 

This includes pressure from the US Trade Representative and from Big Pharma companies for countries to accept even more extreme privileges for brand-name pharmaceutical companies – rules that would expand and prolong their patent monopolies on drugs at the expense of affordable medicines for millions of people. 

 

Other dangerous provisions are also being negotiated.  One chapter of the TPP would limit the ability of Canada and other countries to prevent excessive drug pricing by pharmaceutical companies.   Another chapter on “investment” would give drug companies – one of the most profitable industries in the world – greater rights to sue sovereign governments over measures that they claim interfere with their “expectations” of profit. 

 

Canada in particular should be considered about this.  Just recently, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co. filed a claim for USD 500 million against Canada, under a similar section already in the NAFTA, because a court invalidated its patents on two drugs for not meeting the requirements long established in Canadian law for getting a patent.  This is the first-ever such claim against a government.

 

For months, health groups have been sounding the alarm about the TPP.  MSF has warned that the TPP could become “the most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines in developing countries.”  Watch this short 2-minute video from Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) about the threat the TPP poses to affordable medicines: http://www.msf.ca/tpp.

 

You can also read here the letter that was sent by several Canadian civil society groups a few months ago to Ed Fast, Canada’s international trade minister, outlining our key concerns: http://bit.ly/1b90Wtz.  And here is a longer brief we also sent to the minister, and to all Members of Parliament, with more detailed analysis: http://bit.ly/17MEu8T.

 

The TPP negotiations have been happening in secret, behind closed doors.  Pharmaceutical company lobbyists have had privileged access to the details, but the public in all the countries affected – including Canadians – have been kept in the dark.


Until now.


WHAT HAS CHANGED?

 

Last week, WikiLeaks leaked the full text of the section of the TPP dealing with medicine patents:  http://www.citizen.org/Wikileaks-publishes-TPP-IP-Chapter

 

The leaked text confirms the fears of health activists: the US is pushing, and pushing hard, for extreme new protections for brand-name pharmaceutical companies’ monopolies, to the detriment of patients.  These new rules would hit people in developing countries the hardest, but they are damaging and dangerous for Canadians as well.

 

However, the leak also gives some cause for hope:  many other countries, including Canada so far, have been resisting the worst excesses being pushed by the US and Big Pharma. 

 

This isn’t to say that Canada is fully supporting maximum flexibility for countries and staunchly defending access to affordable medicines.  That would be a dangerous and premature conclusion and we don’t know for sure what Canada is up to in the negotiations.

 

But an analysis of the leaked text does show that there is important opposition to the US/Big Pharma agenda – and, on at least some important issues, Canada so far has been among those resisting.

 

Negotiations are entering a critical phase, and it is very important that the Harper government and its negotiators hear from Canadians that Canada must not give in and must not agree to the extreme demands being made by the US and Big Pharma.

 

In fact, it is critically important that Canada and other countries must refuse to agree to ANYTHING in the TPP that exceeds what has already been accepted by all countries at the World Trade Organization (WTO).  The US/Big Pharma agenda has been to push constantly for ever more damaging rules to expand, extend and protect their patent monopolies – and limit countries’ ability to ensure patients can get the medicines they need at reasonable, affordable prices.

 

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

 

Canadian civil society organizations concerned about fairness and justice in access to medicines are asked to take two steps right away.

 

STEP 1:  Watch the MSF video and sign the online petition to Prime Minister Stephen Harper at http://www.msf.ca/tpp.

 

STEP 2: Sign on to the statement below by sending your organization’s endorsement (and the name of the director or head of the organization) to Richard Elliott at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network at relliott@aidslaw.ca by the end of the day on Thursday, November 21.  Share it with any other organizations and through your networks to invite others to sign on.

 

The statement will be issued on Friday, November 22nd and shared widely, including with all those organizations who have signed on.  We would then ask you to share it widely through your networks (email lists, Facebook, Twitter and so on).

 

******

TEXT OF STATEMENT FOR ENDORSEMENT

Send endorsements by close of business, Thursday, November 21 to relliott@aidslaw.ca.

 

OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA

 

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, PC, MP
Prime Minister of Canada

Langevin Block, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister:


Last week, the text of the intellectual property chapter being negotiated as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (TPP) was leaked.

 

The leaked text confirmed what has long been suspected: the US government is pushing for provisions to be included in the TPP that would further hinder access to affordable medicines for millions of people in developing countries, as well as undermining equitable access in Canada.

 

The leak last week also revealed that Canada has been among the countries that has resisted some of these dangerous and damaging proposals. 

 

Canada’s negotiators should be applauded for standing up to the pressure from the US and brand-name pharmaceutical companies.  It appears from the information now available that Canada and 4 other countries have put forward counter-proposals that, for the most part, preserve the flexibility that countries ostensibly have under the existing rules on intellectual property under the WTO’s TRIPS Agreement. 

 

We welcome this encouraging news, but we are not complacent.  The TPP negotiations are ongoing and there is intense pressure to trade away health and other public interests in order to conclude an agreement.  Canada must not give in to international pressure from the US, other countries or the pharmaceutical industry.  The success of the multi-country proposal will depend on Canada and its other proponents defending the public interest.

 

This cannot be allowed to happen.

 

We are Canadian civil society organizations committed to the basic principle that access to medicines and to health care should be equitable, based on need and not on ability to pay, whether at home or around the world.  Medicines should not be a luxury.

 

We call on the Government of Canada to reject any proposals for provisions in the TPP that would restrict access to affordable medicines for millions of people.

 

In particular, we are concerned about provisions in the intellectual property, investment and pharmaceutical pricing chapters that will make it harder for patients, governments and treatment providers to get access to affordable, generic medicines.


Too many people already suffer and die because the medicines they need are too expensive or do not exist.  We cannot stand by as this proposed agreement threatens to restrict access even further.

 

And Canada should not stand by.

 

We urge the Canadian government to ensure that the final text of the TPP is aligned with its pre-existing global public health commitments. 

 

In particular, we call on your government to ensure, in the TPP negotiations, the following:

  • The TPP should not undermine public health flexibilities included in the TRIPS agreement by adopting even more stringent strengthening intellectual property measures (e.g., extending patent terms or more stringent, longer terms for data exclusivity).
  • The TPP should not further undermine Canada's ability to export lower‐cost, generic medicines to eligible developing countries under the already complicated mechanism known as Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR).
  • The TPP should not include provisions that would potentially thwart access to medicines by introducing new rules on damages and injunctions, and limit the free international transit and supply of affordable, generic medicines.
  • The TPP should not impose restrictions on the ability of government agencies to protect the public interest by regulating pharmaceutical prices and reimbursement programs and by regulating drug companies’ marketing practices.
  • The TPP should not include intellectual property in the definition of “investment,” as this would enable pharmaceutical companies to impede regulation of the pharmaceutical sector in the public interest.  In fact, given Canada’s experience under NAFTA, the TPP should contain no investment chapter at all.

 

Please ensure that poor people in need of life-saving medicines don’t pay the ultimate price for this “free” trade agreement.


Sincerely,

[complete list of endorsing organizations to be added]

 

###

 

 

_______________________________________________

Richard Elliott

Executive Director | Directeur général

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network | Réseau juridique canadien VIH/sida 

+1 416 595-1666 (ext./poste 229) | relliott@aidslaw.ca

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