Health Impact Assessment: TPP Poses Risks To Affordable Medicines, Tobacco Control And Nutrition Labeling

from the matter-of-life-and-death dept

The TPP negotiations are still being conducted with a total lack of transparency — especially compared to TAFTA/TTIP, where public pressure has led to the release of a large number of documents from the EU, though not from the US. Despite that secrecy, the TPP negotiators seem to have no qualms about proclaiming the talks as nearly “done.” Since they have been saying something similar for years, skepticism is required, but it is possible that negotiations might be getting closer to the end game where all the really difficult issues need to be addressed.

That makes the absence of any official release of the draft text pretty appalling. Assuming that the final text will be released if and when an agreement is reached, this will leave very little time for the complex provisions to be analyzed properly before the national votes take place in some TPP countries. Given what’s at stake — TPP is likely to have a big impact not just on trade, but also on many aspects of daily life — one group has decided to pre-empt that eventual release, and to analyze what information we have, notably from leaks. HIA Connect, based in Australia, describes itself as follows:

A resource for health impact assessment (HIA) as a method and a process to ensure that public policies, projects, plans, and programs contribute to the health of the population and health equity.

HIA’s new report “Negotiating Healthy Trade in Australia: A Health Impact Assessment of the Proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement” (pdf) focuses on TPP’s likely impact on health in Australia, but many of its conclusions apply to other countries participating in the TPP negotations. Here’s a summary of its findings:

A report released today by a large team of academics and non-government health organisations reveals that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) poses risks to the health of Australians in areas such as provision of affordable medicines, tobacco and alcohol policies and nutrition labelling. Many public health organisations have been tracking the progress of the TPP negotiations over the past several years and have expressed concerns about the potential impacts and lack of transparency.

As that makes clear, the academics and other experts who put together the report are concerned about a number of adverse effects that TPP is likely to have. Some are familiar, for example the impact on affordable medicines, or on the ability to regulate and restrict tobacco advertising — an area where Australia is already suffering thanks to corporate sovereignty provisions in other treaties. Others are new, but similar: some TPP provisions could limit the regulation of alcohol availability and alcohol marketing, and restrict alcohol control measures such as pregnancy warning labels. Food is another area where labeling restrictions in TPP could prevent governments from warning about the consumption of unhealthy ingredients.

Of course, supporters of TPP will doubtless say that all this is premature, and that nothing certain can be said until the final text is released — a point echoed by the authors of the report:

“In the absence of publicly available current drafts of the trade agreement, it is difficult to predict what the impacts of the TPP will be,” said Dr Deborah Gleeson, one of the report’s authors. “In the study, we traced the potential impacts based on proposals that have been — or are being — discussed in the negotiations.

But as Gleeson goes on to point out, there’s a very easy way to remedy this problem:

“The only way to properly assess the risks is to allow a comprehensive health impact assessment to be conducted on the final agreement before it gets signed by Cabinet.”

Given that people’s health and even lives may be at stake here, it is irresponsible for participating governments to withhold the draft texts — especially since they are allegedly so close to completion — and thus to prevent a proper health impact assessment of them being conducted well in advance of any final votes.

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Comments on “Health Impact Assessment: TPP Poses Risks To Affordable Medicines, Tobacco Control And Nutrition Labeling”

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David says:

Uh, yes?

Health Impact Assessment: TPP Poses Risks To Affordable Medicines, Tobacco Control And Nutrition Labeling.

Time and again, I get surprised by the “discoveries” of people about these sort of trade agreement.

Of course that will be the health impact because that’s the point of those agreements. It’s not a side effect. It’s what they are intended to do.

They are addressing trade and profit problems when dealing “abroad” by annihilating any local laws and regulations.

That’s the point. It’s not a surprise occasional discovery. That’s what the treaties are about in the first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Uh, yes?

Just as David said, the interest at had his is to mend their profits by imposing US trade, patent & copyright law on other countries to get back their “stolen” profits, at US prices of course.

They don’t care that this will put (currently) affordable medicine out of reach for millions of patients as long as they get to squeeze a few extra $100 from the middle-class indians, chinese, etc.

Looks like we’re a bit short on long term memory:

17α-Hydroxyprogesterone caproate was approved by the FDA in 1956 and it got its patent back.

But let’s take Amiodarone, a drug used to treat heart disease, it was approved by the FDA in December 1985.

That’s a 30 year difference, and a higher chance of getting retroactive patents.

Currently it tops at ~ 6$/pill (before any discounts), but imagine it costing 20-40$/pill (again before discounts).

You think this can’t happen abroad once TPP is enacted?

MrTroy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Uh, yes?

They don’t care that this will put (currently) affordable medicine out of reach for millions of patients as long as they get to squeeze a few extra $100 from the middle-class indians, chinese, etc.

I don’t doubt the veracity of this statement, but the TPP doesn’t have any direct impact on India or China since they aren’t signatories…

To the GP, nobody involved in the report is surprised at the discoveries, this is all about having an official piece of paper that can be waved in front of government to try to get them to change their minds. This is trying to play the game, regardless of whether the deck is stacked.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re:

Red meat for the base, then sucks up to his handlers for donations. Good doggie. Sit! Beg! Now roll over and play dead. Honestly, these people make me sick. If you’re going to make a position statement, have the decency to stand by it. It’s okay to change your mind, but be honest about it and ‘fess up when you do.

And they wonder why so few of us vote!

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Excessively Cheap Booze

Just so that non-American readers may get some sense of what TPP demands might amount to in the case of alcohol, you may not be aware that booze is very, very cheap in the United States. No doubt the distillers will start using the Investor-State Dispute Resolution process to enforce American alcohol prices.

From time to time, in a college town in the state of West Virginia, I receive newspaper circulars from a major drugstore chain, offering to sell a thirty-can “suitcase” of beer for fifteen dollars, or fifty cents a can; or, alternatively, a 1.75 liter bottle of hard liquor for fifteen dollars, about twenty-five cents per shot. The average rate of state whiskey taxes is about four dollars the gallon (80 cents per 1/5 gallon bottle, 3 cents/shot). The federal rate is $13.50/gallon ($2.70/bottle, ten cents per shot), paid by the distiller/importer, in the interests of central control, and thereafter incorporated in the price. Granted, the prices I have quoted are not for name brands, but it all winds up in the same place. There’s a case for a reasonable federal whiskey tax, say about fifty dollars a bottle ($250/gallon, $2/shot).

At present, you can get well and truly bombed for much less than it would cost to eat at McDonald’s. Allowing for changes in the value of money, Hogarth’s satirical caption in _Gin Lane_, circa 1750, (“Drunk for one pence, dead drunk for twopence, straw for free”) still holds.

Needless to say, there are periodic incidents in which healthy young college students literally drink themselves to the point of heart failure. Likewise, in college rape cases, one or both of the participants regularly turn out to have been really smashed.

The sheer cheapness of booze is the cruel thing. There are conventional ways to manage alcohol consumption at a party, notably serving up a table of food, with all kinds of things beyond the party-goers’ ordinary experience. You know: veggie trays; all kinds of pickles and olives and peppers; a liberal assortment of fruit; ten different kinds of cheese, ten different kinds of bread; ten different kinds of sea food; assorted juices from strawberry to pineapple; and some cooked items (say, a beef chili, a chicken curry, a garbanzo stroganoff, and a risotto). All in all, you might be talking two hundred dollars worth of groceries, and an afternoon of cooking. So, a nice little co-ed goes to all this trouble, because it’s the way her mommy brought her up, and she gets upstaged by some floozy with a fifteen-dollar “family-sized” bottle of spiced rum. It’s not fair!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Excessively Cheap Booze

“There’s a case for a reasonable federal whiskey tax, say about fifty dollars a bottle ($250/gallon, $2/shot).”

In what sense would a $50/bottle tax be “reasonable?” What is the case that can be made for it?

I should point out that that tax rates on booze vary wildly from state to state. I live in a state that has pretty high taxes (not as high as in Europe, true), and am always pleasantly surprised at how cheap booze is in almost every other state.

“At present, you can get well and truly bombed for much less than it would cost to eat at McDonald’s.”

Not in my state.

“The sheer cheapness of booze is the cruel thing.”

Was this a joke? I honestly can’t tell.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Re: Excessively Cheap Booze

A net cost of about two or three dollars for a drink is about right, disregarding how it is achieved. Someone who drinks moderately is not going to be particularly hampered by the cost, but binge-drinking, or getting drunk every night, will become a lot more expensive. As matters stand, the manufacturers seem to be switching over to the 1.75 liter bottles for spirits, and the gallon bottles for wine. They aren’t happy about a drinker only spending five dollars, so they try to make up for the low price on volume. The low-cost-high-volume manufacturers will use the TPP to chip away at the more restrictive state laws. A treaty is the federal law of the land, and takes precedence over state laws.

I’ve seen people destroy themselves with booze. The odd suicide, and all that. I’ve also seen people “drunk on duty.” I’ve seen a good little girl drag home her sozzled boyfriend, winding up pretty hysterical herself by the time they arrived, and I’ve cleaned up the boy’s vomit afterwards. Have you ever been in a situation like this?

“The sheer cheapness of booze is the cruel thing…” I suspect you have had very little experience in dealing with drunks, or you would know what I am talking about. The story in the link happened twenty years ago, when the price of a fifth of whiskey was still a hundred bucks or so, roughly ten times what it is now. More states had state liquor stores, and there were limits to the rush to cheapness. My apartment-neighbor’s benders only happened once every several months, when a cash windfall came through. At twenty-five cents a drink, he would never have been sober.

I don’t know which state you are in. If you are in Oregon, that’s Skando-America, Lake Woebegone country, as I know from having lived there, and it may well be the case that the state liquor store refuses to carry brands of hootch which are inexpensively compounded, Coca-Cola fashion, out of laboratory alcohol, at a manufacturing cost approximating that of gasoline, in order to sell at a price only slightly greater than the applicable taxes. The main point is that you can’t get drunk for twenty-five cents a drink. The prices I quoted are confirmed in the latest newspaper circular, which arrived a couple of days ago. As the fine print stresses, they are only valid in West Virginia. And let’s add that the store is Rite Aid.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Excessively Cheap Booze

“A net cost of about two or three dollars for a drink is about right”

I would consider that to be really cheap. In my part of the country, you can find that level of pricing for terrible beer during happy hour in a dive, but pretty much any time or place else, you’ll be paying twice that.

“I suspect you have had very little experience in dealing with drunks, or you would know what I am talking about.”

I have a fair bit of experience with alcoholics, yes, but I disagree with the notion that prices should be altered because there are people who have problems with alcohol.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Excessively Cheap Booze

Well, gentlemen, we are speaking of whiskey (or less respectable distilled waters, 30-40% alcohol), not of beer. And we are speaking of a little old man, in his late sixties, weighing perhaps a hundred and twenty pounds (60 kg.), who drank, as nearly as I could estimate, something on the order of a cup (8 fluid oz, 250 cc) of whiskey. He didn’t just become silly-drunk– he became ill. His skin turned gray, because his blood circulation had been disrupted by the excess of alcohol.

Likewise, we are not talking about bars, dives or otherwise. We are practically talking about people who purchase package drink: beer by the “suitcase,” wine by the gallon, and whiskey by the 1.75 liter bottle. Having bought it, they go and drink it, “Russian style,” in public places, sometimes sitting on the sidewalk, sometimes under a bridge, or in the park, or something like that.

In Philadelphia, they had something called a beer deli. A beer deli obtained a license to operate by posing as a small takeout restaurant, but in fact it sold almost no food, and what food it sold was truly dreadful. What a beer deli actually sold was 40 oz bottles (1.25 liters) of beer, sold through a bulletproof enclosure, which were bought by tough young men who drank them while sitting on the sidewalk outside, and drunkenly menaced passersby.

I live in Morgantown, West Virginia, now, which is a much safer place than Philadelphia, but the world does creep in on us. A few years ago, there was an episode in which a young woman with a baby, who didn’t belong to Morgantown, but was just a drifter, passing through, decided to have a good time with a bottle of Mogen-David MD/20-20, a cheap California wine vulgarly known as “Mad Dog.” Somewhere along the line, her baby got tossed into a stream, and subsequently drowned, despite the best efforts of the local policemen and firemen.

There is a “sports bar” in town, attached to the local bowling alley. It’s the place where the respectable working class drinks, eg. the blue collar workers from the hospital. I have seen signs advertising vodka at two dollars the drink, but I don’t believe I have seen any appreciable drunkenness around the premises, and the bowling alley is family-oriented. In any event, there are sufficient penalties for bartenders who serve alcohol to patrons who have obviously had enough. The problem has to do with package liquor. For example, a discount store may sell someone a big bottle of whiskey, which a reasonable person might consume over a couple of weeks, but the store clerk has no way of knowing if it will be consumed in a couple of hours.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Excessively Cheap Booze

Financial circumstances do enter into the matter. I would estimate that the old man’s monthly income was on the order of $500-600/month, circa 1993, and his rent about $200. I was the proverbial graduate student, and I was perceptibly richer. You see that, on this scale, a hundred dollars for a bottle of whiskey is a lot of money.

There was an old lady in the building, the widow of the old man’s buddy. The relationship was somewhere between that of a sister and a platonic wife. They were substantially housebound, but an (unlicensed) neighborhood taxicab driver () took them to the store, and to doctor’s appointments. When their social security checks arrived, she could organize an expedition to the store, and turn both his check and hers into groceries and money orders. I don’t know to what extent they were eligible for food stamps, but again, she would have converted the money directly. I rather suspect that his food stamp booklet was kept in her pocketbook. Within her limited zone of control, she was able to prevent the scapegrace godson from exploiting the old man financially.

() In Philadelphia, there was a type of unlicensed cab driver, called a “hack” in the local vernacular, who made his living by being the trusted retainer of regular customers of many years standing, and having little or no need to advertise publicly. In a paradoxially way, the unlicensed driver was much more legimate than the kind of cab driver with a medallion.

A bender happened when the scapegrace godson had some kind of financial windfall, giving him a surplus above his hand-to-mouth existence, which enabled him to buy a bottle, collect the dirty woman, and head to my neighbor’s apartment for a party. The godson’s behavior led me to believe that he did not have any place to live of his own. He was probably the kind of drifter who hung out in bars, and persuaded women to take him home with them. At any rate, he only turned up at intervals of several months, and in between times, he may have been in the “cooler,” with his wants provided by the state.

To take another case, that of college students, the colleges set up a system to ensure that students living in dorms have very little need of ready money. The college and the parents arrange matters so that the student’s tuition, housing, board, electronics, books, bus pass, and clothing are all paid for in advance or included in back-to-school shopping. Local restaurants sometimes get in on the game by associating together to start their own meal card system, and selling it to the parents, with the assurance that the meal card cannot be used to buy alcohol, or, of course, drugs. At this level, it does matter whether whiskey is priced in the range of “sundries” or not. In practical terms, the price of drink might mean that someone who buys himself whiskey can only afford a half-pint bottle for twenty dollars, and is reluctant to share it with someone he doesn’t know, who he doesn’t owe any favors, who happens to be underage.

Seegras (profile) says:

Re: Re: Excessively Cheap Booze

“At present, you can get well and truly bombed for much less than it would cost to eat at McDonald’s. “

This costs SFR 11.70 here, 3dl beer in a restaurant or pub costs SFR 4.50, so no; but in a store, you can get 5dl beer for SFR 0.8 to SFR 2, so yes again.

But then, getting drunk is very much a question of speed. I can drink 6 liters of beer (SFR 9.60 to SFR 24) spread out over a day without getting drunk. But 3 liters spread over 3-4 hours will get me drunk.

“There’s a case for a reasonable federal whiskey tax, say about fifty dollars a bottle ($250/gallon, $2/shot).”

“reasonable” only if you’re a bloody puritan puke.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Tabacco Control?

“When you just can’t get enough of The Drug War” you should listen to an interview by “Jung & Naiv” (young & naive) with the biggest police union in the biggest economic state in the EU, Germany. Their chief does admit to drinking alcohol but also states that they arent happy that those deadly drugs, tabacco and alcohol, are available at all. Meaning that it might be the case that if the influence grows with treaties like this they will get their wish and we will face another prohabition.
Right now when it comes to drug use the US is on the libertarien side given they made weed legal in some states. I would wish that people are free to choose what they consume but here in the EU they are not and I don’t want the US to be forced to become that conservative.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Health Impact

The USTR is having an adverse impact on my mental and emotional health. Can the USTR be sued?

I know medical malpractice is off the table as he is not a doctor, but how about practicing medicine without a license? Denying cost effective drugs could be argued to be a medical decision. A bit of a stretch, I know, but maybe worth a try.

Rekrul says:

Here’s how to fight this;

We all just start making stuff about what’s in the TPP. Post things that will get people upset and say you heard it was going to be part of TPP.

This will turn people against it and maybe encourage protests similar to the ones for ACTA. If they want to counter this disinformation, they’ll have to actually release details of what’s in it, which will also turn people against it.

If they accuse people of posting lies, you have the excuse that you’re just passing on second-hand information with a caveat that it’s what you heard. Since you have no official information to go on, how are you supposed to know whether the information is accurate or not?

They’re fighting dirty by keeping the details secret and trying to pass it without letting anyone know what’s in it, so why shouldn’t we fight dirty too?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Too risky to backfire. Go too extreme on your ‘guesses’, and they’d use that to dismiss real concerns about real bits and pieces that get leaked, by spinning them as more ‘baseless fearmongering’.

Besides, what’s been leaked so far is nasty enough that all you’d need to do is make people aware of it, and keep shoving it in their faces just how bad ‘agreements’ like these are for pretty much anyone except large companies. Make them aware of what they have to lose, and hopefully that will incentivize enough of them to make a big enough of a fuss that supporting the toxic things becomes more hassle than it’s worth for the politicians.

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