Branded pharma worries, generics makers cheer as trade pact hits snag in Congress

The Trans-Pacific Partnership took it on the chin Friday when the U.S. House voted against a key assistance program for workers displaced by global trade. That move throws a wrench into U.S. efforts to pass the controversial trade agreement, which pharma companies have lobbied hard to shape.

Branded drugmakers have successfully pushed for specific patent protections in the 12-nation agreement, an effort that would tighten intellectual property laws in several of the member countries. As The New York Times reported last week, the pharma industry has also been lobbying for new rules for government price-setting processes--in an effort, some say, to gain more influence over the process.

The latest TPP setback wasn't welcome in the branded field, but generics makers have a different point of view; Mylan ($MYL) CEO Heather Bresch said the thumbs down in Congress will give her and the generics industry more time to fight the TPP's patent provisions. Because what's good for branded drugmakers in intellectual property protection is bad for generics makers, which want to launch their copies as soon as possible.

Heather Bresch

"It's setting the global generic industry back 30 years," Bresch told the NYT about the pact. "I'm thankful for this reconsideration, and I'm going to use this window to try and educate and let our voice be heard."

PhRMA maintains that the TPP's patent protections won't hurt generics makers, pointing out that generic drug sales in the U.S. are strong despite strong IP laws. A PhRMA spokesman told the newspaper that his group is hopeful that the House will end up passing the overall legislation that would grant President Obama more trade-negotiating powers.

Meanwhile, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton uttered some scary words for pharma in a conversation about the trade agreement over the weekend.

"I think our drug companies, if they're going to get what they want, they should give more to America," Clinton said at a campaign event in Burlington, IA. "They should be required to negotiate drug prices in America with Medicare because one of our big problems right now is exploding drug prices."

Critics of the "transparency" provision of the TPP--giving pharma a bigger window into government deliberations over drug prices--say those rules could also prevent the U.S. from granting Medicare power to negotiate drug prices.

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