There are many serious issues raised by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but the one that may have the greatest long-term impact is its provisions on drug patents. The explicit purpose is to make patent protection stronger and longer. While these provisions are likely to lead to higher drug prices in the United States, they will have their greatest impact in the developing world. In most developing countries, drugs are far cheaper than in the United States. This is especially the case in India. The country has a world-class generic industry that produces high-quality drugs that typically sell for a small fraction of the price in the United States. The U.S. drug industry desperately wants to eliminate this sort of price gap, which can exceed a ratio of one hundred to one. This should have everyone very worried.
It's no secret that health care costs are on the rise, and have been for years. From monthly premiums to co-pays and now coinsurance for prescription drugs, consumers are being squeezed financially as a result of trying to keep their families healthy. A relatively new factor in this cost-versus-care debate are biologic drugs, complex medicines made from living cells that treat deadly and debilitating diseases.
There are few policies that show the split between elite opinion and everyone else as clearly as trade policy. On trade we see a remarkable convergence of the leadership of both parties against their base, with the elites firmly behind the leadership against what they view as the ignorance of the masses.
When it comes to drug overdose, we may be winning one battle, but losing the war. As deaths involving prescription painkillers are leveling off, the latest stats on heroin fatalities could not be more dire. What's often lost behind the headlines is that the trends in prescription painkiller and heroin abuse are linked.