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Secret trade deal will affect the cost of health care in New Zealand

Monday 10 December 2012, 4:34PM

Media release from NZNO

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) is concerned that, despite the Prime Minister's previous assurances that the fundamentals of New Zealand's drug buying agency Pharmac would be protected during trade talks, the opposite appears to be the case.

This weekend the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) chief negotiator, David Walker would not rule out supporting stronger intellectual property protections for big business, which would certainly undermine Pharmac. He stated that Pharmac was part of the "give and take" of the trade deal.

NZNO policy analyst, Marilyn Head says, "The extreme proposals to extend intellectual property rights being negotiated in the TPP agreement will significantly affect Pharmac by delaying the availability of low-cost generic drugs for New Zealanders."

"Generic drugs are fundamental to Pharmac's ability to provide affordable medicines. Without them, the cost of medicines will increase and more people will miss out on essential health care."

Pharmac operates within a fixed budget and increased costs will force it to either reduce the range of subsidised medicines and/or increase prescription charges.  Alternatively, Pharmac's share of the health budget could be increased, but that would be at the expense of other areas of health.

"If New Zealand submits to US demands on intellectual property that threaten the Pharmac model, it will not be only New Zealanders access to affordable medicines that will be affected, "says Head.

"There are several developing countries in the TPP whose populations will be similarly affected by increased costs. New Zealand needs to stand firm on current intellectual property protections, to ensure the widest and fairest access to medicines."

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