The final text of the revised U.S. Peru Trade Promotion Agreement includes substantially new provisions on intellectual property (IP) that will have important implications for access to affordable medicines. The text was released on June 25, 2007.
The original Peru text would have greatly obstructed people’s access to affordable medicines in the interests of transnational drug companies, mirroring many other recent agreements. Compared with these earlier agreements, the new Peru provisions represent a decisive step away from the policy of leveraging trade deals to obstruct access to medicines. Vigorous efforts by the new leadership of the House Ways and Means Committee have reigned in the ambitions of the pharmaceutical industry, and added important flexibilities.
The laws Peru adopts to implement the new flexibilities, and how forcefully Peru pursues their implementation will determine whether people do in fact get access to affordable life-saving medicines as soon as possible. Before considering the Agreement, Congress should reverse the course of past trade policy and call for implementing language and practices in Peru on IP that benefit health. They should also insist that knowledgeable health advocates in Peru play an ongoing role in implementation. House Trade Subcommittee Chair Sander Levin has stated publicly that the text should be interpreted to benefit people’s access, and we expect he will continue to be a champion. If the Agreement is adopted, Congress should remain vigilant on these issues.
The Agreement’s remaining “TRIPS-Plus” rules still exceed the monopoly protections for drug companies already implemented in the WTO’s TRIPS Agreement (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights). These will put patients at greater risk than no agreement at all. For example, data exclusivity rules will allow drug companies to market new drugs in Peru at high prices and without competition for up to five years, even if there is no patent in effect.
But the new rules are a victory for advocates and policymakers worldwide, who are supporting the use of compulsory licenses by Thailand and Brazil, and achieving reconsideration of access provisions in the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. New agreements, starting afresh, must truly promote health, and assure that the benefits of trade are widely shared.
There were no changes in myriad other provisions likely to adversely affect public health, ranging from eliminating tariffs on tobacco products to undermining public health regulations and services. CPATH and colleagues detailed these shortcomings from Public Health Objectives for Global Trade, and proposed alternatives, online at: http://www.cpath.org/id29.html.
A detailed analysis of the provisions related to access to medicines is online in 3 areas: data exclusivity; linkage; and patent extensions: http://www.cpath.org/id29.html
Ellen R. Shaffer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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