Impact of the TPP on health care

While we constantly work to improve public health care for all, we believe that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) if ratified will create significant challenges and barriers to both strengthening and expanding public health care.

The TPP will lengthen patents for big pharma and delay market entry of generics by 287 days. This will add $636 million a year to the cost of medicines which at least 10 per cent of Canadians are already unable to afford.

In 1987, Canada agreed to increase patents for brand name pharma with the condition that big pharma would invest 10 per cent of profits into research and development by 1996. Today less than 5 per cent is being invested. An increase in patent terms is rewarding broken agreements. Big pharma has been pulling their research in Canada and favouring countries with lower wages. There is no precedent that increased patents will lead to more jobs in Canada.

Article 18.48 (4) will allow for an expedited review process of a drug. Currently 3-4 per cent of Health Canada approved medications are pulled from shelves every year. With an expedited review process we are concerned that more drugs will need to be pulled after already having entered the Canadian market.

An additional safety concern regards article 8.7 (1) which could allow other countries a greater voice in regulatory decisioning making regarding drug approvals. If Canada decided to follow another model of drug approval, we may have to allow other countries’ involvement in the decision making process.

The CHC has grave concerns regarding the TPP’s investor rights and investor-state dispute settlement (ISSDS). The TPP will allow foreign investors to sue governments if they are impeding on their rights to make a profit. Canada has substantial experience with investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS) and we often find ourselves on the losing end of the rulings. ISSDS locks-in privatization so that if the a provincial/territorial government tried to expand public health care to cover areas that are currently private, countries that are a part of the TPP would be able to sue the Canadian government for potential lost profits.

Lastly, Canada believes in assisting developing countries and their people. We invest millions of dollars in international development and through UN programs like the Global Fund. Yet, if Canada ratifies the TPP, access to generic drugs like AZT used to treat HIV/AIDS will become increasingly expensive for developing countries and will lead to people being unable to afford their lifesaving medication.

Canada’s public health care system is based on the values of Canadians and those are very clear when it comes to health care: need regardless of the ability to pay. Trade agreements, on the other hand, are in blunt opposition to these values. The principles which regulate the market support the ability to profit. They diminish so called trade-barriers to allow trade liberalization, and allocate services on the basis of purchasing power. Health care and international trade should not mix in Canada and that is why the CHC recommends a strong general carve out for all areas of health care in every trade agreement.

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