Keep Affordable Medicines Available to Developing Nations


Target: President Barack Obama

Goal: Ensure vital generic drug access in developing nations by opposing intellectual property provisions in an international free trade agreement

The United States is secretly negotiating a free trade pact with 11 Asia-Pacific nations, and recent leaks show that the pact could have a ruinous effect on those seeking cheaper generic drugs in developing nations. The agreement introduces tough intellectual property rules that would restrict access to cheaper generic medicines by giving pharmaceutical companies enhanced patent and data protections. Several activist organizations, including the Malaysian AIDS council and Doctors Without Borders, warn that these restrictions would deny people in developing nations access to life-saving generic medications. Ask President Barack Obama to renegotiate the proposed rules and ensure access to life-saving medicines to people in developing nations who cannot afford patent-protected name-brand drugs.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the free trade agreement being secretly negotiated between the United States and 11 other countries, including developing nations like Malaysia and Vietnam. Though not public, leaks reveal provisions in the agreement, introduced by the United States, that would help pharmaceutical companies practice “evergreening,” or extending their monopolies on producing a drug before the patent on that drug expires. When patents expire, other drug companies are allowed to make cheaper, generic versions of the same drug because they don’t bear the cost of research and development. Evergreening allows pharmaceutical companies to restrict access to generics by imposing intellectual property rules like those on the TPP, which would protect their products beyond the original patent’s expiration date.

The cost of other life-saving medicines goes down when drug companies compete with each other to produce generic versions of the same medicine, which results in better treatment for people who cannot otherwise afford the patent-protected name-brand version of the drug. Currently, the cost of treating diseases like HIV using the newest, patent-protected antiretroviral medications is “astronomically high,” according to Doctors Without Borders. Should the TPP’s intellectual property provisions go into effect, the cost of treating diseases will go up enough that people may forgo treatment, putting public health at risk while allowing drug companies to profit.

“If countries like Malaysia and Vietnam are part of an agreement that hinders the availability of affordable generics, people living with HIV who have exhausted all other treatment options will again face death,” Fauwaz Abdul Aziz, of the Third World Network, told the Associated Press.

Urge President Obama to either renegotiate the intellectual property provisions or withdraw from the TPP.


Dear President Barack Obama,

I urge you to strike pharmaceutical intellectual property restrictions from the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement between the United States and 11 other nations. Restricting access to generic drugs would destroy vital access to life-saving medicines used to fight diseases like HIV in developing nations.

Please stop the TPP from allowing drug companies to profit while people in developing nations who cannot afford patent-protected drugs languish and die. Renegotiate the provisions, or withdraw from the TPP.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: e-Magine Art/ via Flickr

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