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Trump to World: Raise Your Medicine Prices – Or Else

April 27, 2018

Trump to World: Raise Your Medicine Prices Or Else

Statement of Peter Maybarduk, Director, Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program

The Trump administration today published a shameful report calling on many countries to give prescription corporations more privileges to charge more for the medicines that people need – or face consequences from the U.S. government.

The U.S. Trade Representative annually publishes a Special 301 watch list on trading partners’ intellectual property practices and uses it to bully countries into giving up policies that advance health and access to educational resources in favor of giving more money to multinational corporations. Listing can lead to trade sanctions and is used against countries’ priorities in diplomatic and commercial relations with the U.S.

This year, the Trump administration has chosen to be even worse. The watch list published today includes new and aggressive passages attacking policies used in many parts of the world to make medicines affordable.

For example, the report includes a new passage (p. 14) challenging countries that “unfairly issue, threaten to issue or encourage others to issue” compulsory licenses. But patent licensing saves lives by authorizing affordable generic competition with expensive medications. Licensing is a standard and essential part of any patent system, intended to protect the public interest and defend against abuse. It is necessary to respond to HIV/AIDS, cancer, hepatitis and other serious diseases. This marks a shameful departure in U.S. health and trade policy that places people’s lives at risk.

It also is an extension of the Trump administration’s domestic policy on medicine pricing and innovation, which wrongly – and cruelly – would have us believe that medicines are expensive in the U.S. because they are too cheap elsewhere. In fact, high prices contribute greatly to deadly rationing of treatment and health services around the world.

There is no reason to believe that raising prices abroad will lower them at home. The Trump administration is helping large, lucrative and inefficient corporations while surrendering a historic opportunity to enact meaningful reform and make medicines affordable for people in the U.S.

Unaffordable medicine is foremost a product of the pharmaceutical industry’s monopolistic business model – single sellers controlling a needed new technology with few disciplines on affordability – and its extraordinary lobbying power. We should be learning from the example of countries that have managed to make medicines more affordable – not fighting them. Early in the AIDS epidemic, the U.S. badly damaged its international credibility by standing with prescription corporations against people living with HIV and AIDS. Millions of people died for lack of access to existing treatment. We must learn from our mistakes.

Read Public Citizen’s comments to the Special 301 Committee here: https://www.citizen.org/access-meds-301.