The Sun Daily reports
Malaysia is against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) which seeks to extend the patent periods of medicines by foreign companies.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the agreement, which is being negotiated among eleven countries including the US and Malaysia, would be detrimental to the local medical industry.
“We are against the patent extension. According to the agreement, if a medicine is launched in the US, and then three years later it is launched in Malaysia, the patent would start from when it is launched here and not when it was launched earlier in the US,” said Liow. “This is not fair.”
He stressed that the agreement would in effect make healthcare less affordable to the public.
Liow said this to reporters after launching Project WATTS (Where Aid Turns To Sustainability), an environmentally focused charity campaign by The Truly Loving Company Sdn Bhd here today.
The TPP is a multilateral free trade agreement intended to further liberalise economies in the Asia-Pacific region.
However, it has reportedly drawn criticisms and protests in part due to the secrecy of the negotiations and a number of controversial clauses in draft agreements that have been leaked to the public.
Parties that have studied the leaks claim that the US is demanding aggressive intellectual property provisions that go beyond what international trade law requires.
A key point of contention by Malaysia is that the existing patents on medicines would be extended for another five to 10 years or more, on top of the current requirement of 20 years.
The patent extension means generic companies would not be able to produce more affordable generic drugs during this period.
Liow also stressed that a company should not be given the power to sue a government due to its state policies.
Under the agreement, investors can claim compensation from governments on the grounds that a new regulation has adversely affected their investments.
The other nine member countries of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership are Brunei, Chile, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Mexico and Canada.
Non-governmental organisations in Malaysia had at a forum on Saturday expressed reservations about the TPP.
The TPP seems to be a sneaky way to extend the patent on medicines. NGOs are concerned as this may affect the availability of crucial generic drugs in the fight against deadly illnesses like AIDS, TB and cancer.
Kudos to the Health Minister for speaking up against this.