January 20, 2016
TPPA–Time to Listen, not just be selective with Facts
by Wan Saiful Wan Jan
In a recent statement DAP Member of Parliament Charles Santiago, repeated his assertion that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would affect access to affordable medicine. He cited the case of Jordan and claimed that the prices of medicine there increased by 20 per cent and the generic drug industry was wiped out six months after they signed a free trade agreement with the United States in 2001.
“I fully support YB Charles Santiago’s demand for the Ministry of Health to be more engaged and work together with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in communicating the impact of the TPP on healthcare in Malaysia,” said Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Chief Executive of IDEAS.
“But is regrettable that the DAP MP was selective with facts to support his arguments and he turns a deaf ear when answers are given to address his concerns.” What has been deliberately omitted from the story about Jordan by opponents of the TPP are the two major benefits the country enjoyed as a result of its free trade agreement (FTA) with the US.
Wan Saiful added: “Firstly, Jordan saw increased investment in research and development and the introduction of new, innovative and effective drugs into the market. Liberalisation of the regulatory environment led to 78 new launches of innovative medicines within ten years, more than double Jordan’s pre-reform rate. The reforms catalysed by the FTA spurred local healthcare entrepreneurial activities leading to more products being developed by Jordanian companies such as the Jordan Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company. The FTA helped Jordanian consumers access to new and innovative medicines, and this is good.”
“Secondly, Jordan enjoyed the introduction of best practices and international standards in the country’s industry. Prior to the reforms, only one Jordanian company was certified for Good Manufacturing Practises (GMP) and this raised questions about the quality of locally produced generics before reforms. After reforms, at least four more Jordanian companies achieved international GMP certification, enabling for more Jordanian produced generics to be used locally and exported for the regional and international pharmaceutical markets. Today, post-reform, Jordan has become the leading Arab exporter of drugs, exporting cent of their production to some 66 countries.”
“It is telling that in November last year, Thailand, a country that depends on generic medicines extensively in its universal healthcare coverage scheme, has expressed its intent to join the TPP. Is YB Charles saying that the Thais don’t understand what they are getting themselves into? The fact is, the reduction of trade barriers will allow the price of generic medicines to go down and this is good for health. Since Malaysia wants to use mostly generics in our healthcare system, we should focus on the wider positive benefits of TPP on the pricing of generics.” said Wan Saiful.
Wan Saiful concluded that “YB Charles has been a consistent anti-liberalisation campaigner and I respect him for his persistence. I am sure he and other anti-liberalisation campaigners will continue nit-picking to oppose the TPP. But being selective with facts and refusing to listen when answers are given is not the way to handle this issue.”
* IDEAS is an independent not-for-profit think tank dedicated to promoting market-based solutions to public policy challenges.