Stop TPP Fast Track!
By Ronnie Shure, member of PSARA’s Executive Board
Editor’s note: Ronnie Shure delivered this statement at the Tacoma rally against Fat Track and also to the Seattle City Council.
I am a semi-retired pharmacist, and I am speaking on behalf of Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action. We are asking you to help stop Fast Track for the Trans Pacific Partnership.
I have worked with public health in Seattle, where I had the opportunity to participate in the dramatic improvements in health care that we provided in King County Jail. I moved over to Harborview Medical Center where I was part of changes in health care that were supported by the University of Washington. I am currently advocating for health care reform as a retiree, and it is even more exciting to be involved in health care reform.
We have made significant steps forward in improving the health care system, and I hope to see us improve our level of health care to reach the same level that citizens in other developed countries are receiving. The Trans Pacific Partnership seems to be trying to accomplish the opposite — by adding some of the barriers we experience here to become barriers to health care in these other countries.
The high price of brand-name drugs can be explained by the profit-making, free market system for health care. We allow drug manufacturers to charge whatever the market can bear, even though it is not a direct correlation to the actual cost of the drugs. Certainly there are expenses in development and manufacturing of drugs, but it is astounding to see the amount spent on marketing and on protecting the patients that result in the massive profits that are made. These massive profits cause major problems in health care systems across our country. There are huge corporations that own drug companies that make a profit and insurance companies that can limit their payments to only the drugs that they make themselves. This is not “fair” trade — it is controlled by these large corporations — it is unfair trade.
The higher cost of these brand names drugs also impact patients directly and regressively. There are higher copayments for brand-name drugs that lead patients to avoid refilling their prescriptions. I have seen patients get refills for their generic prescriptions, but avoid refills for the brand name drugs. I have seen patients having low blood sugars from overuse of their generic immediate-acting insulin because they can’t afford to refill their brand name long-acting insulin that is necessary to control their baseline blood sugar. These higher costs have a greater impact on people with low incomes, so it is another regressive cost that perpetuates inequality in our health care system. It is unfair to force people to choose between buying food or paying rent or paying copayments for their prescriptions.
The secret negotiations that are taking place for the TPP include major US corporations that hope to spread their patented high prices for drugs to other countries. These high prices are a barrier to health care reform in the US. The TPP trade agreement may impose these same barriers on other countries. Please help us prevent our country from lowering the level of health care in our country and other countries in the Pacific Rim.