Debates go on in the Special Committee of the House of Representatives on the draft rules of the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative (TPP), which 12 nations join, including Japan and US. Mass actions against the free trade agreement are organized in various places of the country as well as an area around the parliamentary building. Let’s look at the patent right, which involves many countries in the world.
LET’S LOOK AT PATENT RIGHT, TOO!
As for the TPP rules, usually people and lawmakers in this country concentrate attention to tax levying on agricultural products. An access to medicines, however, is one of the crucial issues which ‘the international civil society’ worries bout. It consists of 99% of the global population except 1% of rich people.
Profit in Inverse Proportion
The TPP plan is to enhance protection of the patent right of global pharmaceutical business. If that goes on, the more business gains profits, the more difficult it becomes for people living in the developing world to have vital medicines.
In Chapter 18 of the draft rules (on Intellectual Rights) the provisions specify: ‘arrangement of a patent term shall be made available so that a patentee will be compensated due to unreasonable shortening of the term’ and ‘market protection rules shall be set up for at least eight years from the day of approval for sales of new medicine, including biologics’.
In other words: usually it takes approximately 10 years from the day of application for patent right to that of approval of sales. If ‘an unreasonable shortening’ of the patent term is found during the ten years, it may be extended by lost years.
If data of a new medicine are made to the public, a cheaper generic product can be manufactured. If the TPP initiative takes effect, data on a new medicine may not be opened easily and a price is more likely not to be reduced. That will give patients heavier burden at the hospitals, while leading to a rise in the premium payment of the health insurance program.
Developing nations demand earlier data release of a new medicine on account of necessity of less expensive generic medicines, but the TPP betrays these countries. It goes against the objective which the international community hopes to reach. Once generic medicines have successfully prevailed in the developing world to save HIV patients, but global pharmaceutical business tries to impede the trend.
Medical organizations, including the Medecins sans Frontieres and patients’ entities have expressed strong concerns about the access to medicines in the TPP framework. The doctors’ group harshly criticizes the initiative, saying ‘it will be remembered as the worst trade pact in the history in terms of purchase of medicines’.
We Are Members of Civil Society
In Japan the patent issue has not been debated focusing on its influence on patients in the developing world. But we, as a citizen living in the developed world, must pay attention to the issue as our responsibility and stage campaigns on the patent right, too, in our struggles against the TPP agenda. Quality of our movement will be tried and tested.
A Japanese-language shortened version of a symbolic documentary film is released. It exposes tragedy of free trade, entitled ‘Fire in the Blood’. A project to produce a complete version has started. Let’s organize screen presentations.
October 25, 2016