Santiago tells IDEAS chief: I fight for cheap medicine

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PETALING JAYA: Klang MP Charles Santiago has rejected IDEAS chief Wan Saiful Wan Jan’s allegation that he has been deliberately attacking the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) because he is an anti-liberalisation campaigner.

Speaking at a press conference at the DAP headquarters here today, Santiago said Wan Saiful’s observation was flawed.

He said his primary concern was to ensure that the public had access to affordable medicine. “I am fighting for the people’s access to affordable medicine, which will be hampered by the profit motive, extended patents, ever-greening and the choking of generic medicine, if the TPPA comes through.”

He said patent extension would effectively block cheaper, generic medication from reaching the public earlier.

“Extending the patent rights of pharmaceutical companies would undermine competition from generic medicine. It would allow the patent owners to extend their monopolies and continue charging exorbitant prices for live-saving drugs.”

Santiago pointed out that studies on the effects of increased intellectual property protection in Jordan had produced conflicting results.

“So while Wan Saiful argued that the US-Jordan FTA (free trade agreement) was beneficial for Jordan, a 2007 article in the Journal of World Intellectual Property analysed the TRIPS-plus provisions of the FTA and found that the claimed benefits from the FTA have been exaggerated and the costs underestimated,” he said

“TRIPS-plus” refers to provisions in agreements on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights.

According to the 2007 article that Santiago cited, Jordan had a vibrant domestic pharmaceutical industry prior to the FTA.

He said the TPPA should be scrapped as long as no one would come forward to state “without doubt” that those needing life-saving medicines would have access to affordable medicine with the enforcement of the agreement.

“If Saiful can’t confidently tell me, without an iota of doubt, that prices of medicines won’t increase after the TPPA, then he should shut his mouth,” he added.