The head of the World Health Organization has voiced concerns over the impact the controversial 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership will have on vital drug prices. As she argues, the deal could limit the availability of cheaper generic medicines in favor of patent holders.

“Can you bear the cost of $1,000 for a pill to treat hepatitis C?” Margaret Chan asked the audience of health experts, academics and diplomats. “Unless we get these prices down, many millions of people will be left behind.”

From Reuters:

The deal’s backers, including the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia, say it will cut trade barriers and set common standards across 40 percent of the world’s economy.

But other bodies, including leaders of India’s $15 billion pharmaceuticals industry, have said it could end up protecting the patents of powerful drugs companies inside the deal area, at the expense of makers of cheaper generic drugs outside.

She said no country in the WHO objected to the private sector making a fair profit, but she was worried about companies influencing decision-making in health policy.

Chan said it was important to find the right balance between encouraging innovation and keeping drugs affordable, but some recent innovations had led to “astronomical” price rises.

U.S. unions, lawmakers and interest groups last week also raised concerns over the text of the deal, setting up a potentially difficult path to ratification by the United States, the biggest of the 12 partners.

U.S. labour representatives said the agreement contained weak, poorly worded or unenforceable provisions.

If ratified, the TPP will be a legacy-defining achievement for Obama and his administration’s pivot to Asia, aimed at countering China’s rising economic and political influence.

Read more here.

SEE ALSO: The Most Brazen Corporate Power Grab in American History.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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