Petition on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) Negotiations

Dear YB Menteri Perdagangan Antarabangsa & Perindustrian,

As Malaysian citizens and medical and health professionals who are concerned about the potential adverse effects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) on medical and public health practice, and on patient care, we wish to congratulate the Malaysian Government for insisting that tobacco control efforts of national authorities should be excluded from the purview and binding obligations of the TPPA currently being negotiated.  These are not alarmist fears on the part of negotiating parties and the populations they represent.

The Government of Uruguay for instance was sued by Philip Morris when Uruguayan health authorities tried to implement more stringent tobacco control measures requiring that 80 per cent of a cigarette packet surface display images warning of the risks of smoking.  Meanwhile in Australia, the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act (2011) was similarly challenged by the Hong Kong subsidiary of Philip Morris under the provisions of a 1993 (bilateral) agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of Hong Kong which was crafted “for the promotion and protection of investments”.

We further urge the Malaysian Government to stand firm against intellectual property provisions in the TPPA which might jeopardize the affordable and equitable access to essential (lifesaving) medicines which we seek to safeguard.

In particular, we are opposed to ever-greening provisions which allow for re-patenting of medicines for an incidental new use of an existing medicine, or for a new form for its dispensing, for extensions of monopoly patent duration (from 20 to 25 yrs), and for innovator demands for data exclusivity which violate the social compromise (‘social contract’) underlying monopoly patent protection and are furthermore highly unethical (denial of demonstrated efficacious treatment to study controls as part of superfluous, duplicative testing).

As it is, Malaysia is already burdened with some of the highest medicine prices in the region (for instance, a tenfold market price for the HIV drug lopinavir-ritonavir when compared to countries in the same per capita income category), due to delayed entry and registration of generics:

Equally alarming is the revelation from recently leaked documents that the US Trade Representative is in the forefront of efforts to extend patent claims beyond medical and surgical devices to medical and surgical methods (procedures).

Indeed, the reasonable stance in TPPA negotiations would be to exclude (carve out) from the purview of the TPPA writ health-related matters such as tobacco control and intellectual property provisions which go beyond existing WTO-TRIPS compliance, so as to retain national regulatory discretion over this policy space to safeguard the public interest.

In fostering a business friendly environment to capture the benefits of a vibrant, trade-dependent economy, we should also pay heed to its distributional consequences and not impose burdensome sacrifices on the vulnerable and the marginalized.

A rising tide does not necessarily lift all boats.  Yachts perhaps, but skiffs may not cope well with the turbulence of an increasingly deregulated world, not to mention the boatless who may be simply inundated with little to expect from shrinking social safety nets.

Signatories:

Professor Adeeba Kamarulzaman (Professor of Infectious Diseases & Dean of Medicine, Universiti Malaya)

Dr Chan Chee Khoon (Pakar Perunding, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya)

Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj (Chest Physician, Member of Parliament – Sungai Siput)

Fifa Rahman (Health Law specialist, Policy Manager, Malaysian AIDS Council)

Dr Surendran Thuraisingham (Consultant Cardiologist, Sunway Medical Centre)

Dr David KL Quek (Consultant Cardiologist, Council member, Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility)

Lim Ching Wei (Hon Secretary, Breast Cancer Welfare Association Malaysia)

Dr Lai Suat Yan (Senior Lecturer-Gender Studies, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, Universiti Malaya)

Professor Azad Hassan Abdul Razak (Department of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya)

Dr Ang Kim Teng (Malaysian Mental Health Association)

International Movement for a Just World (JUST)

Dr Tan Maw Pin (Associate Professor,Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya)

Dr Phua Kai Lit (Associate Professor, School of Medicine & Health Sciences, Monash University Malaysia)

Dr Pang Yong Kek (Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine,Universiti Malaya)

Dr Yap Tuan Gee (Pharmacologist)

Dr  Lee Boon Chye (Cardiologist, Member of Parliament – Gopeng)

 

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For more information, and to sign on to this petition, please contact:

 

Chan Chee Khoon

Center for Population Health

Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya

cheekhoon@ummc.edu.my

03-79674777

 

Nithiah Thangiah

Center for Population Health

Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya

nithiah@ummc.edu.my

03-79677513

 

Please feel free to circulate this petition to others who may be interested in endorsing it.  Thank you.