The Turnbull Government must not water down protections for Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme under the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
The former Trade Minister Andrew Robb insisted the TPP’s provisions on new “biologic” medicines will not require Australia to make any changes to its existing pharmaceutical patent laws or to the PBS, which ensures that ordinary Australians have access to affordable medicines.
Now his successor as Trade Minister, Steve Ciobo, has said that Australia may need to help secure support for the TPP by responding to pressure from the US Congress over biologic medicines.
The Minister’s comments come after the US Trade Representative Mike Froman has said the Obama administration is developing ideas on how to resolve complaints by members of the US Congress who want the TPP to give US pharmaceutical companies longer periods of market exclusivity for their products.
Mr Froman said: “We are in touch with [the biologics] stakeholders and their supporters in Congress. We’re developing ideas and gathering input as an important next step in finding a solution.” (Inside US Trade, 19 April 2016)
Mr Robb made a clear promise that the TPP would not require Australia to change its five-year period of data exclusivity for biologic medicines and would not require any changes to the PBS.
But Mr Ciobo is now crab-walking away from this promise by raising the prospect of changes to the TPP’s biologics provisions after the federal election.
He told a conference in Melbourne: “Whoever wins the forthcoming Australian election will need to play a key role in terms of what can be done around biologics which seems to be the main sticking point … with respect to the debate that is happening in the US.”
Labor calls on the Coalition to come clean on its plans to erode the PBS.
A Shorten Labor Government will not accept any provisions or changes to the TPP which will increase the cost or restrict the availability of medicines for Australians.