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Op-Ed: How a new trade agreement will hurt poor’s access to medicines | 

Guest Column by James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International

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President Barack Obama, in his 2013 State of the Union address, referred to an international trade proposal called the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, or TPP for short. It’s a massive set of trade negotiations with a lot at stake, affecting about 40% of all global commerce from the use of the internet to the price of drugs.

drug money
Flickr, Brooks Elliott

Salon called the Trans-Pacific Partnership the biggest trade deal you’ve never heard of, and speculated it “could potentially be the most significant foreign and domestic policy initiative of the Obama Administration.”

So why haven’t you heard of it? Three reasons:

  • First, the negotiations of the TPP are held in secret, making it hard to report.
  • Second, trade agreements are perceived to deal with technical and obscure issues that news editors think would bore most readers to death.
  • Finally, the White House makes it sound as if the trade agreement simply imposes “our” norms on foreigners, making it seem less relevant to U.S. readers

The TPP, in fact, will be a game-changer for all of us and is woefully lacking in media coverage.

Enough is known by activists about the negotiations to paint a fairly clear picture of its impact on global prices for medicines. That’s what I’m focusing on here. In particular, the TPP is poised to reverse major concessions on intellectual property rights protection for medicines in developing countries that were put in place in 2007 by the Bush Administration.

I think it’s both surprising and worth reporting that the Obama Administration is actually more hostile to the interests of the global poor than was the Bush Administration. 

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Gates Foundation’s global vaccinations scheme too friendly to drug industry, critics say | 

UN

Bill Gates at World Health Assembly

Vaccines are “miracles,” Bill Gates likes to say, because of their power to prevent death and disease so simply and at such a low cost.

Today, at a meeting in London held to increase funding for one of global health’s biggest success stories, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, governments and international donors agreed to boost funding for the vaccine intiative by $4.3 billion — exceeding GAVI’s request of $3.7 billion

The new money — most of which came from the British government, the Norwegian government and the Gates Foundation — will allow the vaccine alliance to vaccinate 250 million more children worldwide and prevent at least 4 million child deaths over the next five years.

The funding allows expanding the initiative’s portfolio to include two new vaccines against two big killers, pneumonia and diarrhea.

“For the first time in history, children in developing countries will receive the same vaccines against diarrhea and pneumonia as children in rich countries,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Together we must do more to ensure that all children – no matter where they live – have equal access to life-saving vaccines.”

In this time of economic recession, when governments and donors are reluctant to even maintain, let alone increase, foreign aid, GAVI’s success at fund-raising is extraordinary.

There’s little question GAVI is making a big difference in terms of global health, having so far prevented something like 5 million deaths. I’ve written several posts recently emphasizing this point, and to some extent perhaps sounding a bit like an advocate for GAVI.

It’s hard not to be when you look at what this project has accomplished in terms of lives saved.

But there are some questioning whether GAVI is, in fact, saving the most lives possible by getting the biggest bang for the buck. This question was raised today, at the London meeting and at the press conference. Continue reading