USTR puts business profits over people
Say what you will about former President George W. Bush, but the initiative he began in 2003, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), has been a resounding success. To date, PEPFAR has given billions in AIDS relief to 15 developing nations by relying on the distribution of generic medications to help treat those who cannot afford treatment on their own. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama’s administration looks to be completely undermining this humanitarian campaign thanks to a new trade deal that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is negotiating. These negotiations, named the Trans-Pacific Partnership, seek to establish stricter intellectual property laws, which would place severe limits on generic medications and allow American pharmaceutical companies to build monopolies overseas. The result would be far more expensive medications, which would greatly hinder relief efforts in every country in which PEPFAR currently works.
If these negotiations succeed in the USTR’s favor, it would be utterly disastrous for worldwide AIDS relief. The USTR claims that these stricter intellectual property laws would provide incentive for U.S. drug companies to develop and provide medicine. Even if the incentive did spur the companies to work harder on distributing medications, the fact that these medications would be expensive brand names, as compared to generic counterparts, it would make them less available to the global poor. The aim of PEPFAR is to help those who cannot help themselves. If the medication becomes more expensive, then PEPFAR will only be able to provide very limited amounts of it, as opposed to the amount they can provide at the current costs. This would have the inevitable result of hindering a large portion of AIDS victims from receiving relief.
It’s ironic that these negotiations would be taking place under the Obama administration, seeing as Obama himself has been such a champion of health care for everyone. This is the exact opposite of that tenet, focusing instead on benefiting big pharmaceutical companies instead of those who are suffering at the hands of disease. Relief efforts practically hinge on the availability of generics. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would essentially do away with these generics, potentially putting thousands upon thousands of lives at risk.
When it comes to a disease like AIDS, the people suffering should be the focus of all efforts. Instead, big businesses are once again looking to cash in, disregarding human lives in the process. This negotiation cannot succeed. It would be far too costly in terms of human life.