June 10, 2015

Latest TPP Leak Raises Burning Questions About Implications for U.S. Health Care System

Obama Administration on the Defensive Once Again as it Tries to Rally Skeptical House Members to Support Trade Authority for Controversial Pact

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The latest secret document from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations – published today by WikiLeaks – shows that the pact could expose Medicare to pharmaceutical company attacks and constrain future policy reforms, including the ability of the U.S. government to curb rising and unsustainable drug prices, according to Public Citizen. The concerns about the U.S. health care system arising from this latest leak add to the litany of reasons that nearly all Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives and a substantial bloc of House GOP oppose Fast Track trade authority for the TPP. 

The December 2014 draft of the “Annex on Transparency and Procedural Fairness for Pharmaceutical Products and Medical Devices,” which sets rules and procedures TPP country health authorities would be required to follow regarding pharmaceutical and medical device procurement and reimbursement, is only the latest of several draft texts from the TPP negotiations published by WikiLeaks. Other draft sections of the pact have drawn the ire of public interest advocates due to threats presented to a host of issues ranging from financial regulation to tobacco control to environment to terms allowing corporations to challenge U.S. laws in foreign tribunals. More than 25 chapters remain shrouded in secrecy.

“This leak reveals that the Obama administration, acting at the behest of pharmaceutical companies, has subjected Medicare to a series of procedural rules, negotiated in secret, that would limit Congress’ ability to enact policy reforms that would reduce prescription drug costs for Americans – and might even open to challenge aspects of our health care system today,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program. 
 
The Annex was first leaked to the public in 2011. While strong opposition from many health, consumer and labor groups and nearly every TPP-negotiating country has led to the removal of some harmful provisions, many others remain, raising serious questions and concerns about the consequences of the text for U.S. health care and that of all negotiating countries.

Importantly, this leak comes as members of Congress weigh whether to cede their constitutional authority over trade to the Obama administration, removing their ability to approve the nearly-complete TPP text before the president signs it or to amend it during floor consideration and providing such extraordinary powers to whomever may be president for the next six years with respect to additional pacts by requiring straight up-or-down votes on completed, signed deals presented by the administration.

In this memo, Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines program presents three questions raised by the text regarding the U.S. health care system that the administration should answer for a public and Congress worried about implications for rising medicine prices. 

For more than half a decade, the United States has been negotiating the TPP, a proposed free trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. The United States has ambitions to eventually apply the terms of the proposed TPP to all members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum – roughly 40 percent of the world’s population.

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