The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement poses risks to Australians in terms of medicines compliance and affordability, tobacco and alcohol policies and nutrition labelling, a new report has found.
And Shadow Health Minister Catherine King has demanded the Abbott Government assure Australians that the TPP will not lead to higher prices for medicines in Australia.
The report, Negotiating Healthy Trade in Australia: Health Impact Assessment of the Proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, by researchers from the University of NSW’s Centre for Health Equity Training Research and Evaluation, found the TPP risks increasing the cost of the PBS, “which is likely to flow on to the Australian public in terms of increased co-payments (out-of-pocket expenses) for medicines.
“This may result in medical non-adherence for prescription use and prioritising health costs over other necessities (food, housing, etc),” the report says.
It also says the TPP poses risks to the ability of Government to regulate and restrict tobacco advertising, alcohol advertising and availability, and to implement new food labelling policies.
“The TPP includes provisions that don’t just affect trade,” says Public Health Association of Australia CEO Michael Moore. “They affect the way the Government regulates public health.
“In many areas – such as nutrition labelling – it’s already a struggle to implement effective policies that promote health. If certain provisions are adopted in the TPP, this will be another hurdle for organisations seeking positive public health outcomes.”
One of the report’s authors, Dr Deborah Gleeson, said the only way to properly assess the risks is to allow a comprehensive health impact assessment to be conducted on the final agreement before it gets signed by Cabinet.
The Australian Medical Students’ Association president James Lawler says the TPPA poses a significant risk to the affordability of medications and has the potential for major follow-on effects for the Australian, and global, population.
“The provisions in the TPPA may mean longer and broader monopolies on medicines and other health technologies, ultimately increasing out-of-pocket expenses for already vulnerable populations,” he says.
“Increased cost of medicines will intensify medical non-adherence, with an Australian Bureau of Statistics survey finding one in 11 people delayed or did not fill a prescription due to the cost. The TPPA is a dangerous move in the wrong direction.”
Labor’s Catherine King says the concerns raised by health stakeholders highlight the need for greater transparency in the TPP negotiations.
“The Government must not agree to any provisions in the TPP which erode the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme or significantly alter the balance in Australia’s intellectual property laws between the interests of consumers and the interests of producers,” she says.