Amy Kapczynski, in the new NEJM (Don't know if you'll be allowed to read the whole thing) manages to exponentially increase my bafflement over president Obama's push to get the Trans-Pacific Partnership signed. Even Paul Krugman has pretty much shrugged at it, saying it's not really a trade agreement, it's an intellectual property agreement, and who cares about that?
As Kapczynski says, the draft is a secret, and even members of congress can only see it if they agree to a gag order and not to carry even a pen into the room. But some chapters have been leaked and, Whoa!
For a bit of background, the only reason it is now possible to provide essential pharmaceutical treatments to millions of people in poor countries is because India, a major center for drug manufacturing, has comparatively liberal provisions on drug patents, not allowing patents for "me too" drugs or new uses of existing drugs. The TPP would outlaw such limits on patents. While India is not a party to the treaty, it is quite odd that the draft targets India's laws, "sometimes word for word" says Kapczynski, given that it is intended to gain additional signatories in the future.
The draft would also essentially override president Obama's own initiative to reduce the "data exclusivity" period (which prevents marketing of generics) for biologicals from 12 years to 7, which would cost U.S. consumers and taxpayers $4 billion over the next decade. Other provisions would also increase drug prices.
And there's this:
In March 2015, a third bombshell dropped: a draft chapter on “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS). It would empower foreign companies to sue member countries for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages in a wide range of cases in which they argue that their expected future profits have been undermined. These challenges would be heard by “arbiters” — typically private lawyers, many of whom cycle in and out of industry — with no prospect of independent review by a national court. . . . Firms have already used provisions like these to challenge an astonishing range of laws, from minimum-wage laws in Egypt, to tobacco regulations in Uruguay and Australia, to core aspects of patent law as they apply to medicines in Canada. The ISDS provisions alone could interfere with domestic health policy for decades to come. Under their auspices, policies covering a wide range of issues, from food and tobacco labeling, to patent law, to drug-pricing rules, to environmental protection could be challenged in participating countries — including, of course, the United States.What are you thinking, Mr. President?