Pharmaceutical Industry Behavior and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Auckland, New Zealand. Photo by Adrien Olichon via Unsplash.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) was a regional trade agreement involving 12 Pacific Rim countries, including New Zealand. Throughout negotiations, it became clear that the TPP had the potential to significantly alter the domestic environment for health policy-making. The United States sought to eliminate therapeutic reference pricing, introduce appeals processes for pharmaceutical companies to challenge formulary listing and pricing decisions and introduce onerous disclosure and “transparency” provisions. One of the key concerns for New Zealand was the future of its Pharmaceutical Management Agency (PHARMAC), on which affordable access to medicines for New Zealanders hinges. 

A journal article in The New Zealand Medical Journal by Erik Monasterio and Deborah Gleeson examines trends in the pharmaceutical industry conduct and strategy over the past 15-20 years and argues that the TPP would have contributed to adverse health outcomes by increasing costs and reducing access to affordable medicines for New Zealanders. The authors explain that this would disproportionately affect disadvantaged population groups, including Māori and Pacific peoples.

The range of strategies used by the pharmaceutical industry to advance and protect its economic interests and market share is well-documented. The authors discuss the many legal and illegal practices that the pharmaceutical industry has engaged in to extend periods of market monopoly. The article calls for patent law that prioritizes the public interest and for public institutions and decision-making processes that are independent and free from pharmaceutical influence. The authors warn against ceding further ground to the pharmaceutical industry in TPP negotiations to protect access to medicines in New Zealand.

Read the Journal Article