By: Emma Russell
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has assured New Zealanders that Pharmac will be protected in future trade agreements.
United States President Donald Trump yesterday announced plans to make countries like New Zealand pay more for drugs.
He accused other countries of “freeloading” and paying a tiny fraction of what medicine cost in the US.
His comments have drawn concern in New Zealand with one academic warning that Pharmac’s role could be jeopardised in future Trans-Pacific trade agreements.
However speaking today, Ardern said New Zealand had deliberately protected the Government’s drug funding agency in its trade agreements.
“It’s good for New Zealanders, and we have made sure that we will be able to provide for their health needs through a model that is cost-effective for New Zealand, and we would continue to protect Pharmac in any future agreements as well.”
Ardern said she was not aware of the Government having any discussions with the US about this.
“We have always been at great pains to protect Pharmac and we will in the future.”
In his speech, Trump suggested the US would be making a move to rejoin negotiations with New Zealand and 10 other nations towards a Trans-Pacific trade deal.
He said he would make “fixing this injustice a top priority with every trading partner” by negotiating with other countries to pay more.
“We will demand fairness overseas. When foreign governments extort unreasonably low prices from US drug makers, Americans have to pay more to subsidise the enormous cost of research and development.
“In some cases medicine that costs a few dollars in a foreign country costs hundreds of dollars in America. The same pill with the same ingredients, in the same package, made in the same plant and that is unacceptable.”
University of Auckland professor of law Jane Kelsey said if that happened it would demand extensions on patent periods as it was doing in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada.
Kelsey said the US was already demanding 12 years of exclusivity for biologic medicines, like Keytruda, up from five years in the TPPA.
“We can expect that if the US seek to re-enter that plus other attacks on the Pharmac process . . . will come back into play and the US terms for re-entry will be much higher than what was in the original deal.”
Kelsey said it was only a matter of time before New Zealand, with other countries, would give in to US demands.
Pharmac declined to comment.
Source: NZ Herald
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