The Trans-Pacific Partnership that President Donald Trump abandoned last week had few steadfast fans in healthcare.
Many feared its intellectual property protections would increase global pharmaceutical prices. The drug industry, meanwhile, argued those protections didn't go far enough.
The trade agreement negotiated by the Obama administration extends greater protection for pharmaceutical patents across a dozen Pacific Rim countries. The U.S. was a signatory, but President Barack Obama failed to garner enough support in Congress to ratify the pact into law. Trump pledged during his campaign to remove the U.S. from the partnership. Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, also criticized the agreement.
The trade pact would have eliminated 18,000 taxes that other countries place on goods from the U.S. The other nations that agreed to the pact are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Consumer advocacy group Public Citizen and aid organization Doctors Without Borders decried the deal's intellectual property provisions that required participating countries to extend data protection for biologic medicines—drugs produced with living matter—for at least five to eight years. They argued that doing so would keep biosimilars—the reproduced “generic” versions of biologics—from entering the market and bringing prices down.
“I think the Trump administration should use its power under existing law to make it clear we will allow generic competition,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen's Access to Medicines Program. “They should work with legislators, and legislators should push for a comprehensive agenda on drug pricing, recognizing that monopoly power is the core of the problem.”
Judit Rius Sanjuan, the U.S. manager for Doctors Without Borders' Access Campaign, said it would be possible to draft a trade agreement that satisfies both the private sector as well as nongovernmental organizations that are concerned about drugmaker monopolies. “We would like to see an agreement that is a win-win for innovation and access,” she said.
But Sanjuan said it's too early to know what the Trump administration's next steps will be, and it's hard to tell how the White House will treat the interests of pharmaceutical companies and NGOs. While the Republican Party tends to be pro-industry, Trump chastised the pharmaceutical industry's pricing practices at many points throughout his campaign.