An Unhealthy Trade Policy

Multinational Monitor, January-February 1997 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

An Unhealthy Trade Policy


We "don't work for" consumers in Argentina or Africa, and we "don't care" about public health issues there.

That was how Joseph Papovich, deputy assistant U.S. Trade Representative for intellectual property, responded to a suggestion in July from a group of consumer activists that the U.S. Trade Representatives should treat patent policy for pharmaceuticals as a public health issue.

Unfortunately, U.S. Trade Representative-designate Charlene Barshefsky demonstrated in January that Papovich's cruel and callous comment reflects official policy. On January 15, Barshefsky announced that the Clinton administration will impose sanctions on $260 million of Argentine imports as punishment for Argentina's policy on protection of health registration data.

The sanctions announcement is the latest and most serious in a long line of decisions in which the U.S. Trade Representative has treated important public health matters as narrow trade questions. Working as a virtual arm of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA) the U.S. pharmaceutical trade association, USTR regularly subordinates the public health and consumer interests of citizens in other countries to the narrow mercantile interests of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry.

The basis for the sanctions is a U.S. demand that Argentina provide greater protection to safety data submitted by pharmaceutical companies. Currently, Argentina permits a generic manufacturer to rely on safety tests conducted by another drug company. Under U.S. law, for a five-year period, only the company that conducted the safety tests is permitted to use the test data. The USTR wants Argentina to adopt a U.S.-style law.

The U.S. position would effectively extend the market power of some pharmaceutical patent holders beyond the expiration of their patent. More frequently, it would confer market power on other pharmaceutical makers who have conducted tests on unpatented drugs, including government-developed drugs for which patents are not, and should not be, available.

Hypothetically, a second drug producer could conduct the same tests as the initial tester - but this would amount to the most unnecessary and socially wasteful testing imaginable, conferring no public benefit, and cause pointless delays in introducing competition.

Whether or not a second producer willing to conduct tests emerges, consumers will pay more. Either the initial tester maintains a monopoly, or consumers must pay for the second, duplicative round of tests.

In a poor country such as Argentina, these are not only consumer price concerns. Even more than in the United States, in developing countries such as Argentina, price bilking is not just an economic issue, but a public health matter.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

An Unhealthy Trade Policy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?