Last night I watched an episode of 60 Minutes that told the story of two nurse practitioners and a country doctor who drive across part of Appalachia providing free medical care and prescription drugs to people who otherwise are not able to get the care they need. The patients are Virginians who are not covered by health insurance- Virginia is one of 19 states that are still opting out of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act- and they are unable to afford the cost of covering themselves otherwise. In every case, they had serious chronic medical conditions that had grown worse because of inability to purchase needed medication on a regular basis- things like diabetes, blood clots, COPD, and cancer. Unfortunately, for some of the patients, the heroic efforts of the mobile medical angels was simply not enough because their conditions were too advanced and the damage had taken too big a toll. Comments during the segment likened the region to a third world country.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) threatens to keep the cost of prescription drugs sky-high by allowing pharmaceutical companies to extend their patents indefinitely (even without the legislation they can now last 20 years or even longer). Doctors Without Borders appeals to the public on its website regarding this potential crisis situation saying “Damaging intellectual property rules in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) would give pharmaceutical companies longer monopolies over brand name drugs. Companies would be able to charge high prices for longer periods of time. And it would be much harder for generic companies to produce cheaper drugs that are vital to people’s health. If harmful provisions in the U.S. proposals for the TPP agreement are not removed before it is too late, this trade deal will have a real cost in human lives.”
This would likely allow them the right to exercise monopoly control, such as that demonstrated recently by the shocking behavior of “Pharma Boy” Martin Shkreli. Because of another provision in the TPP setting up a supra-national corporate-run tribunal to settle disputes, rather than having the right to challenge such behavior legally in court citizens here would have no such right. In fact, by attempting court action we could actually be sued by a corporation for trying to stop them from making a profit! Yes, you read that correctly. Our own laws would be subject to the whims of a corporate tribunal. The Martin Shkrelis of the world would be allowed to run rampant, and there would be nothing to be done about it.
Contrary to its half-baked rosy promises of economic stimulation in developing countries, the TPP is the worst kind of Trojan horse. It is absolutely critical that we stand up and stop this piece of toxic legislation in its tracks. It was allowed to get through the first stages of approval in Congress using “fast track” authority last spring. There was none of the usual opportunity for public comment. Pardon me, but was I wrong in thinking that we still live in a democratic society? Bernie Sanders opposed fast track, and he has opposed the TPP from its inception. There are lots of other, equally shocking reasons to oppose this horrible deal for America and the Pacific Rim. I will be weighing in with more reasons soon.