Press Statement By DAP Secretary-General And MP For Bagan Lim Guan Eng On 23.11.2015 In Kuala Lumpur.
Clarification on US President Obama’s statement on the impact of the TPPA on a rise in drug prices
Whilst opening the DAP Socialist Youth National Congress yesterday, I had said that if the impact on the prices of medicines as a result of the implementation of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) cannot be clarified by our Ministers, then DAP would have no choice but to oppose the TPPA when it is debated in parliament in January.
I also said that the US president, President Obama, had said that the price of medicines will go up. I made this statement based on a news article by a local news portal Malaysiakini, which on 20 November 2015 reported President Obama as saying that patented drugs will be pricier following the implementation of the TPPA. President Obama was reported to have said this at a Youth South East Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) town hall meeting at Taylor’s University on Friday, 20th of November, 2015.
The local news portal has since revised its story yesterday night and apologized for its error in reporting that President Obama said that the price of medicines will increase.Having being informed that malaysiakini had corrected its story, the fact is that President Obama did not explicitly state that the prices of medicines will increase as a result of the TPPA.
What President Obama said was that pharmaceutical companies want to have exclusive rights to the drugs they have created through research and development and that these companies want to keep selling these drugs at a higher and higher prices without lower cost generic substitutes. He also said that he believes that over time, the TPPA, through the elimination of tariffs on basic drugs such as penicillin, will result in the cost of some of these drugs going down.
The issue of whether the prices of medicines including the so-called ‘biologic’ pharmaceutical products will increase in Malaysia as a result of the TPPA still remains unanswered by the Malaysian authorities. Biologics is the future of medicine. Put simply, biologics uses biological compounds such as proteins, cells, tissues. It underpins all biotech medicines, stem cells therapy and gene therapy whereas “old fashion” medicines are usually chemical compounds. Is the 5 to 8 year protection for biologics an overly long period of excessive protection for medicines that are presented as the future hope for mankind?
Another issue which has not been addressed by the TPPA is the abuse of patent protection. We have seen this happen in the case of Turing Pharmaceuticals which raised the cost of a life-saving treatment for people with HIV and weakened immune systems by 5,500% overnight (US$13.50 to US$750). This hike was carried out in August/September 2015, shortly after a financial investor bought the rights to the drug.
As such, these concerns will continue to be raised by the DAP regarding the TPPA as well as other areas of concerns surrounding the TPPA.
LIM GUAN ENG