Sixteen nongovernment organizations from Korea and the United States criticized the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America’s (PhRMA) filing of the 2018 Special 301 submission, which called for the U.S. Trade Representative to take a firmer approach in tackling Korea’s intellectual property barrier.
Organizations that participated in the letter included Franciscan Action Network, Union for Affordable Cancer Treatment, Association of Korea Doctors for Health Rights, and Korean Pharmacists for Democratic Society.
In a letter, the signed organizations called on the USTR and the Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy to prioritize the needs of patients in the context of the two countries’ trading policies. They also asked not to use any of the PhRMA’s recommendations during the renegotiations of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (KORUS).
PhRMA advocated the USTR should make clear that Korea’s pricing practices were inconsistent with its commitments under the bilateral free trade accord last month.
The U.S. organization argued that they and its members remained concerned with several intellectual properties and market access issues in Korea as the Seoul government’s policies severely devalue U.S. intellectual property rights and favor Korea’s pharmaceutical industry at the expense of U.S. companies.
As a result of such favorable policies, PhRMA claimed that America’s cutting-edge R&D and manufacturing sectors are losing out, which led to fewer U.S. jobs, exports, and fewer new medicines for patients worldwide.
In response to such accusations, the conjoined group argued that the current trade between the two nations does not violate any international regulations
“PhRMA’s complaints are at odds with the objectives stated under Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Article 7 regarding the need for a ‘balance of rights and obligations’ in the protection and enforcement of IP,’ the combined group said in a statement. “It also conflicts with the rights of members to ‘adopt measures necessary to protect public health’ and to act against excessive drug prices as an ‘abuse of intellectual property rights’ under Article 8 of TRIPS.”
These rights are further supported and clarified by the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, which specifies that “the TRIPS Agreement does not and should not prevent Members from taking measures to protect public health,” the organized groups added.
The group also claimed that PhRMA’s recommendation does not consider the financial impact that will affect the patients.
“PhRMA seeks the right for pharmaceutical companies to set prices without limit, and without concern for the detrimental impact of high prices on patients and a country's finite health budgets,” the group said. “PhRMA’s arguments and recommendations would have a destructive impact on the public health of Korea, and would hinder the ability of the United States to enact any similar policies on drug pricing.”
The group further urged the two governmental agencies to ensure that both parties will not use any PhRMA’s provisions during the KORUS renegotiation, as it could restrict the ability of either country to aggressively protect public health through legal measures designed to lower drug prices.
“We request a discussion on the revision of TRIPS-plus provisions of KORUS in a way to reconcile them to the human rights obligations, especially the right to health and the right to science and culture,” the group pointed out.