Disgusting drug move marks TPP risk
The well-publicised hike in the price of an essential medicine this week raises serious issues about the design of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an intellectual property expert has warned.
Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO CEO Martin Shkreli made headlines this week by raising the price of the 62-year-old drug from $US13.50 to $US750 a pill.
Shkreli rightfully became the most hated man on the internet as his abhorrent move to wring raw profit from peoples’ suffering became international news.
Professor Matthew Rimmer, an expert in intellectual property and innovation law at QUT, said the move had drawn criticism because the drug, Daraprim, was listed on the World Health Organization's Essential Medicines List.
“This drug is particularly useful in the treatment and prevention of malaria, and the treatment of infections in peoples with HIV/AIDS,” Prof Rimmer said.
He said the controversy over Daraprim has concerning implication for countries negotiating the TPP, including Australia.
“The dispute highlights the dangers of extending the rights of pharmaceutical drug companies under intellectual property, investor-state dispute settlement and drug administration,” he said.
“We need to ensure there are proper safeguards to provide access to essential medicines - particularly in respect of HIV/AIDs, malaria, and tuberculosis.
“Moreover, we must protect vulnerable groups against drug profiteering and price gouging,” Prof Rimmer said.
While the age of Daraprim made this an unusual controversy, it was not an isolated problem.
“It's more common than you might think - it's not even the first time Mr Shkreli has jacked up the price of a drug,” Prof Rimmer said.
“Drug pricing is a real concern globally, particularly for essential medicines for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
“The dispute raises larger issues about health-care, consumer rights, competition policy and trade.
“I'm pleased to see this latest controversy has provided impetus for law reform in the United States.”
Professor Rimmer said US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's comment on Twitter, 'Price gouging like this in this specialty drug market is outrageous', triggered a sharp fall in the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index.
She subsequently announced a prescription drug reform plan to protect consumers and promote innovation, while putting an end to profiteering.
Professor Rimmer said her rival candidate, Bernie Sanders, had also pushed for reforms to intellectual property to make medicines affordable.