Want to download this page as a PDF? Click here.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership and Public Health

The TPP would provide large pharmaceutical firms with new rights and powers to increase medicine prices and limit consumers' access to cheaper generic drugs. This would include extensions of monopoly drug patents that would allow drug companies to raise prices for more medicines and even allow monopoly rights over surgical procedures. For people in the developing countries involved in TPP, these rules could be deadly - denying consumers access to HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and cancer drugs.

The TPP would establish new rules that could undermine government programs in developed countries. The TPP would control the cost of medicines by employing drug formularies. These are lists of proven medicines that the government selects for use by government health care systems. Lower prices are negotiated for bulk purchase of such drugs and new medicines that are under monopoly patents are not approved if less expensive generic drugs are equally effective. Drug firms would be empowered to challenge these decisions and pricing standards. In the United States, these rules threaten provisions included in Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ health programs to make medicines more affordable for seniors, military families and the poor.

TPP would empower foreign pharmaceutical corporations to directly attack our domestic patent and drug-pricing laws in foreign tribunals. Already under NAFTA, which does not contain the new rules proposed for TPP, drug firm Eli Lilly has launched such a case against Canada, demanding $100 million for the government's enforcement of its own patent standards. 

The TPP would also empower foreign corporations to directly challenge domestic toxics, zoning, cigarette and alcohol and other public health and environmental policies to demand taxpayer compensation for any such policies that undermine their expected future profits. Often initiatives to improve such laws are chilled by the mere filing of such an "investor-state" case. In other instances, countries eliminate the attacked policies. For instance Canada lifted a ban on a gasoline additive already banned in the U.S. as a suspected carcinogen after an investor attack by Ethyl Corporation under NAFTA. It also paid the firm $13 million and published a formal statement that the chemical was not hazardous. 

Cases now underway include:
  • In 2008, Uruguay began implementing its obligations under the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, including enhanced tobacco warning labels and requiring plain packaging for cigarettes. In 2010, Australia followed suit. Philip Morris responded by launching "investor-state" challenges against both countries' tobacco control policies, asking extrajudicial tribunals to order the governments to suspend plain packaging and compensate the corporate tobacco giant for "losses." Even though Australia's High Court upheld the country's plain packaging laws in 2012, Philip Morris continues to use a foreign investor-state tribunal to try to roll back this important public health policy.

  • For years, Renco Group Inc., a company owned by one of the richest men in America, operated a metal smelter in La Oroya, Peru, which became notorious when the site was designated as one of the top 10 most polluted places in the world. Sulfur dioxide concentrations in La Oroya, which greatly exceed international standards and pose severe respiratory risks, doubled in the years after Renco's acquisition of the complex. Renco's Peruvian subsidiary promised to install sulfur plants by 2007 as part of a government-mandated environmental remediation program, but it sought (and Peru granted) two extraordinary extensions to complete the project. In December 2010, Renco notified Peru that it would use the U.S.-Peru FTA investor-state system to demand $800 million from the Peruvian government for not granting the corporation a third extension on its unfulfilled environmental commitments. Since the launch of the investor-state attack, the Peruvian government has allowed operations to begin again at the La Oroya smelter, resulting in reports of new pollution.

Public Citizen's 


Electronic Frontier
Public Citizen's