House Dems: White House pushing Big Pharma agenda in trade deal

House Dems: White House pushing Big Pharma agenda in trade deal
© Getty Images

A pair of House Democrats are attacking the Obama administration for secretly shaping a trade deal that they say boosts profits for American pharmaceutical giants at the expense of patients worldwide.

Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) argued Friday that the U.S. is the only country pushing the “Big Pharma” agenda in the ongoing talks for the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal.

ADVERTISEMENT

“It is the U.S. representatives that have sided over and over again with the big pharmaceutical companies, in the face of opposition from other TPP countries,” DeLauro told reporters.

“Having looked at the document, it really is just filled with parentheses with the names of countries objecting to the US position,” Schakowsky added.

Both members were among the 144 House Democrats who almost derailed Obama’s attempt to fast-track the deal last month. The effort was ultimately rescued by the Senate, giving the White House authority to negotiate a deal that will then receive an up-or-down approval from Congress.

While members have been able to read the text of the deal, they must do so in a secured, soundproof room in the Capitol. They cannot take notes, they cannot bring staff, and are “sworn to silence,” Schakowsky said.

Despite the tight security, a draft of the deal was recently leaked to Politico that unveiled new protections for pharmaceutical companies — making it possible for the lawmakers to voice their concerns publicly.

The White House has stressed that the document is a draft and is subject to change during the discussions. 

“We can see some of the stuff, but we can’t talk about it, but we can make references to the leaked text,” DeLauro said. “We’ve seen the leaked chapter, and that confirms some of the worst fears as healthcare advocates.”

According to the leaked text, the deal would make it far tougher for cheaper generic drugs to enter the market.

Patent holders would be allowed to keep their research data private for more time, and would be given more legal power to fight off generics they claim are infringing upon their intellectual property.   

Those provisions, among others, have come under heavy attack from groups such as the AARP, Doctors Without Borders and amfAR, the global HIV/AIDS group.

Rohit Malpani, a policy director for Doctors Without Borders, warned Friday that the deal “will dramatically restrict medicines for patients around the world.”

“It has the potential to become the most harmful trade agreement ever,” Malpani added.