Comment by Don McCanne
URGENT: NEJM on TPP; One Day Left!
Every member of the House of Representatives needs to read this NEJM article before the crucial vote tomorrow on fast-track authority. If Congress grants the President fast-track authority and eventually provides nonnegotiable blanket approval of TPP, “the United States could be signing away its authority to regulate critical aspects of health policy for years to come.”
We cannot let that happen. Contact members of the House of Representatives immediately.
by Amy Kapczynski, J.D.
The New England Journal of Medicine, June 10, 2015
International trade deals once focused primarily on tariffs. As a result, they had little direct effect on health, and health experts could reasonably leave their details to trade professionals. Not so today. Modern trade pacts have implications for a wide range of health policy issues, from medicine prices to tobacco regulation, not only in the developing world but also in the United States.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is a case in point. A massive trade deal now reportedly on the verge of completion, the TPP has nearly 30 chapters. A draft chapter on intellectual property (IP) alone runs 77 single-spaced pages.
The full health implications of the TPP are hard to judge, not only because its provisions are complex but also because the draft text is a closely held secret. Even members of the U.S. Congress can see it only if they agree not to talk publicly about it and if they leave their pens and phones (and, until recently, their expert staffers) at the door. But several key chapters have recently been leaked and reveal that the TPP could have a substantial impact on health.
Groups including Médecins sans Frontières and Oxfam warn, for example, that the agreement could threaten the lives of millions of people in developing countries. Their concerns stem primarily from the leaked IP chapter and the effect that patents have on the prices of medicines. In the context of human immunodeficiency virus, for example, patents increase the annual cost of antiretroviral therapy from around $100 per person to $10,000 per person.