But how is it possible for a trade agreement to affect a tuberculosis (TB) patient in Sri Lanka for instance? The two accepted drugs for treatment of TB are isoniazid and rifampin, both listed on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, meaning they are accepted as part of a group of medicines constituting the bare minimum for basic healthcare. Despite this classification, major pharmaceutical companies have attempted to patent both drugs, including Roche (which made more than $47 billion in revenue at the time of the TPP announcement). With the TPP in place, it will be easier for a company like Roche to win the patent over the sales of isoniazid and rifampin to create a monopoly. With such a patent, generic companies that develop cheaper versions of both drugs, which are bought by healthcare non-profits (such as Doctors Without Borders), won’t be legally allowed to develop or sell them. This makes it harder for patients who can’t afford “luxury drugs” from companies such as Roche to have access to their much needed medication. Not only drugs, but the TPP also threatens to give corporations the power to hold patents over surgical techniques. This means that perhaps one day, under the TPP, a patient receiving a specific surgery may have to pay for royalties to the company that “owns” the surgical technique involved.
Here in Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau has urged the necessity of the TPP to Parliament, and has called for a “fast-track” of the agreement. It was already signed by Canada earlier this year in New Zealand, but it still remains to be ratified. UAEM has been committed towards stopping the TPP, and here at Western, the TPP-Subcommittee has been raising signatures from students and staff on campus for a petition speaking out against the TPP to be read out in the House of Commons. The petition is sponsored by London-Fanshawe MP Irene Mathyssen.
For more information on the TPP agreement, and the threat it holds towards global health-care access, read UAEM’s official statement on the TPP.
Written By: Saad Mahmood and Yasaman Badakhshi
Saad and Yasaman both currently in their third year of undergraduate studies at Western University and act as Co-Directors of the TPP Sub-Committee.