Changes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) could force around 50,000 people living with HIV in Vietnam to forgo lifesaving treatment. The TPP is a multilateral free-trade agreement between the US and 11 Asia-Pacific nations, including Australia.
US and European trade officials have been pushing for more restrictive intellectual property rules that would limit compulsory licensing of drugs and grant Big Pharma new rights to facilitate patenting — a move, campaigners fear, could jeopardise access to cheap generic medications in developing nations.
According to the UN, there are almost 90,000 people living with HIV on treatment in Vietnam. If the intellectual property proposal is implemented, antiretroviral drugs would increase from US$127 to US$501, meaning the Thai government would only be able to provide HIV medication to 30% of PLHIV, down from its current treatment rate of 68%. Activist groups and non-government community organisations denounced the move as “aggressive”.
Conversely, the Obama administration has promised to fight high drug prices in the US. In particular, expensive specialty medicines such as Sovaldi — a new hep C treatment that costs US$84,000.