Pacific trade deal will not lead to hike in medicine prices, says minister

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Source: The Malaysian Insider

Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed has assured the public that medicine prices will not go up after signing the Pacific trade pact. – The Malaysian Insider filepic, November 13, 2015.

Medicine prices should not go up once the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) comes into effect, said Putrajaya, in response to the public’s biggest worry about the trade pact.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said two major elements in TPPA – the length of patents and data exclusivity for biologics – would not lead to higher medicine prices.

Mustapa said these two elements were already present in laws and standards in the Malaysian healthcare industry and so far, they have not led to extraordinary hikes in medicine prices.

“But we know it is a big worry for the public and it is a worry that we need to deal with.

“(My ministry) is in talks with the Health Ministry to ensure that information on this gets to the people,” Mustapa said in TV3’s talk show programme today.

The biggest criticism that had been levelled at the 12-member TPPA was it would lead to higher medicine prices in Malaysia once the treaty came into force.

TPPA’s proponents say Malaysian industries and companies would have access to a market with 800 million consumers in countries, which account for close to 40% of world economic output or gross domestic product (GDP).

But its critics said the prices of medicines would go up owing to the pact would extend drug patents and make cheaper, generic medicines harder to get.

One claim was that TPPA would allow patents to be extended for more than 20 years but this was refuted by Mustapa, who said people misunderstood the concept.

“Currently under the WTO (World Trade Organisation) patents for drugs and other products are given for 20 years.

“It will only be extended if there are unnecessary delays in processing and registering new patents. But in Malaysia, we take no more than 240 days to process a patent (application).

“If we take more time than that, we have to extend the patents by 20 years.”

This concern was irrelevant to Malaysia as the country had an efficient patent registration process, he said.

Mustapa also attempted to clear the air over the five-year data exclusivity for biologics, a new type of drug that it not made from chemicals.

Critics have said data exclusivity would also prevent cheaper, generic alternatives from entering the market.

TPPA was giving data exclusivity for companies manufacturing biologics just as it did for firms that manufactured chemical-based drugs.

“So, this is nothing new. We are already giving data exclusivity for small molecule-based or chemical based drugs.

“I have explained these two concepts repeatedly but people still get confused. But the government understands their concerns and we will continue to explain to the public.” – November 13, 2015.