Five groups urge President Obama to forego longer protections for biologics in the TPP

Five groups urge President Obama to forego longer protections for biologics in the TPP

Five diverse groups on Wednesday urged President Obama to forego any agreements that would lengthen data protections for high-tech medicines in an expansive Asia-Pacific trade deal.

In the letter to the president, the groups — the AARP, Doctors Without BordersAFL-CIO, Oxfam and the Consumers Union — said they are concerned about recent reports that the Obama administration is working on a compromise with the pharmaceutical industry and Republican leaders in Congress that would lengthen monopoly protections for biologics beyond what is included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

ADVERTISEMENT

“We strongly urge you not to include language in the TPP implementing legislation committing the United States to 12 years of exclusivity or enter into side letters to extend the biologics exclusivity period for any TPP signatory country,” the groups wrote in the letter.

“We ask you to stand by your previous support for reducing U.S. market exclusivity to seven years for high-cost biologic medicines,” they wrote. 

They groups argue that extending protections for biologics would further delay the latest medical tools such cancer drugs and vaccines from reaching people all over the world.

An agreement between the White House and Republican leaders in Congress on patent protections would be expected to boost TPP's chances for passage during the lame-duck session after the elections.

The TPP already requires  or at least five year of exclusivity along with additional protections that amount to about eight years. The U.S. standard is 12 years and lawmakers are pushing for the TPP to recognize that length of time. 

“A change that binds the U.S. government to a 12-year market exclusivity period for brand-name biologics would prevent U.S. policymakers from taking action to reduce the costs associated with biologic drugs,” they wrote.

While each group has their own critiques of the TPP, “we share a view that no TPP commitment should be taken to worsen the plight of Americans already struggling to afford the high and growing prices of prescription drugs, as are millions of people around the world.”

The groups argue that biologics are fast becoming the future of pharmaceuticals to treat diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer but their costs can run high. 

“The cost of these drugs can put these treatments out of reach for those who need them most, even those with comprehensive health insurance,” they wrote.