KUALA LUMPUR: National Cancer Council (Makna), the social enterprise that provides support for cancer patients and their families, has weighed in on the arguments against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and voiced its concern that the free trade agreement will result in more expensive drugs for cancer patients and limit access to generic medicines.
Makna, which also buys drugs on behalf of patients, said in a statement yesterday that it was concerned that the TPP would impact the prices of drugs and if so, the expected price increase, coupled with the goods and services tax (GST) and the depreciation of the ringgit, would adversely affect its budget and its ability to help cancer patients.
Another concern is the accessibility to the patented drugs under the TPPA. It noted that 82% of generic drugs are used in public hospitals. “What about the supply and demand effect on the price of those drugs? This is somehow not assuring to those who are with chronic illnesses,” it said.
The organisation highlighted two key questions that needs to be addressed: Firstly, what are the measures to lessen the burden on patients with the implementation of the GST and the devaluation of the ringgit? Secondly, how is the TPP different from previous trade agreements, specifically in terms of impact on the price of drugs and patent laws?
Makna also expressed concern over recent conflicting views presented on the impact of the TPP on drug prices and accessibility to generic medicines. It noted that several members of the local pharmaceutical industry, academic, medical and scientific communities have expressed concerns that some clauses of the agreement will directly impact drug prices by extending patents’ protection time and limiting capacity for access to generic medicines, the Malaysian government has said that there would not be any such impact and that the necessary legislations will be designed to protect access to low price medicines. “Which is which?” it questioned, adding that the non-profit sector too needs time to conduct their due diligence in any trade agreements when it affects the end users’ choice and accessibility to life-saving drugs.
The article was published by The Edge on 10 December 2015