Millions of people suffer and die each year because the medicines, diagnostics and vaccines they need are priced out of reach, do not exist, or are not adapted to the resource-limited settings where they live.
This is because today’s medical research and development (R&D) system rewards pharmaceutical firms for selling their products at high prices for as long as possible, not for addressing pressing health needs. Today, the cost of drug development is “repaid” to pharmaceutical firms by the very people who whose lives depend on treatments.
So it’s no surprise that medical products designed for wealthy people trump the health needs of the poor. And it’s also no surprise that pharmaceutical interests are working behind the scenes to influence trade rules between countries, for example between the U.S. and India, and between Pacific Rim countries, to extend monopoly protection of high-priced medicines beyond current international norms and to block price-lowering generic competition for as long as possible.
There is a pressing need for a paradigm shift in the way pharmaceuticals are researched and developed, and how intellectual property is applied to medicines. Governments should be putting in place norms that promote innovation driven by health needs, and access policies that ensure even the poorest populations can access the lifesaving medicines they need. One essential step is to enable drug development costs to be “de-linked” from product prices so that the gap in access to medicines for millions of people can be closed.
But right now the U.S. government is negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) with eleven Pacific Rim nations and is pushing for trade rules that could restrict access to generic medicines and reinforce, instead of reform, the broken R&D system.
If you are living in the U.S., please write to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and tell the U.S. government to remove trade provisions that are harmful for access to medicines and innovation!