PM: TPP won't harm Pharmac

  • 11/06/2015

By Peter Wilson and Dave Williams

Pharmac won't be damaged by the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, Prime Minister John Key says.

The agreement is still under negotiation and draft agreements are secret, but according to Wikileaks a healthcare annex could "cripple" New Zealand's drug-buying agency.

Mr Key says it won't be at risk.

"There's no chance of that and no suggestion of that," he told reporters today.

"I'm quite comfortable that our capacity to have Pharmac, and the benefits New Zealanders enjoy because of it, will be preserved."

Wikileaks has published on its website TPP documents it says would force healthcare authorities to give big pharmaceutical companies more information about national decisions on public access to medicine, and grant corporations greater powers to challenge decisions they perceive as harmful to their interests.

Policy analysts think it "appears to be designed to cripple New Zealand's strong public healthcare programme and to inhibit the adoption of similar programmes in developing countries".

Mr Key says there are wins and losses in any free trade agreement, but he's given an assurance New Zealanders won't see any difference to their healthcare costs under the TPP.

"From a New Zealanders point of view it won't have any impact because for any drug that is subsidised, and that's the vast bulk of them, you only pay a $5 prescription and the Government pays the rest," he said.

"So if patents were to run a little bit longer, in theory the Government could pay a little bit more.

"But on the other side of it, if by signing the agreement we get a huge amount of revenue through increased economic activity, it's all balanced.

"But for New Zealanders, they pay $5 now and they would pay $5 then."

Pharmac saves millions by buying generic drugs manufactured after patents have run out, which is a sore point with the big pharmaceutical companies.

The TPP negotiations - which show no concrete signs of being settled - have been going on for five years and involve Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.

Supporters say it could boost New Zealand's economy by $3 billion a year, but critics say that could come at a cost.

Auckland University's Professor Jane Kelsey, one of the policy analysts quoted by Wikileaks, says the latest revelations show the Government cannot be trusted to protect Pharmac.

The real motivation behind the annex was to force changes on Pharmac to reduce its attractiveness as a precedent for other countries, she said.

Mr Key won't comment on the WikiLeaks claims.

"We never comment on leaked documents," he said.

"I'll say what I've always said - New Zealand is never going to sign up to the TPP unless we believe it is in New Zealand's best interests."

NZN

source: newshub archive