STOPAIDS has investigated the leaked US-UK trade documents and assessed the potential impact on the global response to HIV and access to medicines more broadly.
Their findings include a worsening of high prices for vital medication and treatment, a slowdown in the development of new medicines and the potential restriction of countries in the Global South from accessing cheaper, generic versions of the medicines they need.
Tabitha Ha, STOPAIDS Advocacy Manager and Lead Document Investigator, said:
“Over the years HIV activists around the world have fought tooth and nail to get trade negotiators to exclude provisions that lead to higher drug prices and tie the hands of governments and researchers working to improve public health. The leaked US-UK trade documents reveal what we have always feared: the US is pursuing the same profit-driven interests of big pharmaceutical companies that it has fought for and successfully secured in other international trade deals.
“We are concerned that the US is pushing for, and likely to secure, extended or strengthened intellectual property rights, data exclusivities, copyright terms and/or trade secrets in future trade deals. These provisions would worsen the existing global crisis of high drug prices by hindering and deterring the development of generics or biogeneric medicines. Other countries that have previously signed trade deals with the US have seen their drug prices shoot up, such as Jordan.
“We cannot risk slowing down the development of medical advances to tackle new and existing diseases that kill millions of people across the world each year. Strengthening these same provisions would reduce the rate of innovation in health by restricting the ability of researchers to collaborate and build on the fruits of research. Research is cumulative – this means our best advances builds on the knowledge and work of others.
“That’s not all that’s concerning. The US would like to see Investor State Dispute Settlements – known as ISDS – in a deal. These corporate courts allow private companies to sue governments outside of the national legal system. ISDS could mean that the UK government don’t support other countries to use legal measures to increase access to generic medicines. Or it may prevent the UK from agreeing to pro-public health policies that undermine the profit of big pharma, such as improving transparency about the prices of medicines or the costs of research and development.
“Finally, strong patent protections in a US-UK trade deal will set the precedent for other UK trade deals, which could further harm access to medicines in developing countries. Even before these talks, the UK (through the EU) has pushed to strengthen patent and other monopolies in other trade deals.
“From our experience fighting for access to HIV drugs, the UK should not agree to anything that strengthens pharmaceutical monopolies and enables companies to put profit margins ahead of public health. Rather the UK should review the current EU rules, which already go far beyond what is required by the World Trade Organisation, to ensure that no one is denied the medicines they need.”
For further information and comment, please contact Tabitha Ha on 07785 321302 or Tabitha@stopaids.org.uk