Good story from Rob O’Neill in today’s SST. Lobbyist Mark Unsworth of Saunders Unsworth is campaigning against Pharmac, ahead of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations with the US. They want more money spent on patented drugs. Lloyd Morrison and Gareth Morgan have come to the defence of Pharmac. Morgan describes the messages being spread by Saunders and Unsworth as “misleading and dangerous to our health sector.” Morrison sees Pharmac as a model for the broader public service.
Unsorth is lobbying on behalf of the drug companies’ front organisation, Medicines New Zealand. In this he will be joined by the US Embassy, as Wikileaks showed. The 2004 cable is signed by Geoff Swindells, the Bush-appointed ambassador to New Zealand. Some excerpts:
A possible U.S.-New Zealand free-trade agreement (FTA) offers one last avenue for changing government policies that limit access to pharmaceuticals, several U.S. companies said. Meanwhile, Geoff Dangerfield, chief executive of the New Zealand Ministry of Economic Development, told a U.S. drug company that his government terminated its study of patent term extension for pharmaceuticals to keep the issue as a bargaining chip in the event of FTA negotiations. If FTA talks go forward, most of the drug companies will be looking to the U.S. government to win serious concessions from New Zealand on pharmaceutical issues. Pfizer, which withdrew from RMI early this year, will oppose free-trade negotiations until the New Zealand government alters some of its policies, especially its patent law and reference pricing.
To complement the industry’s efforts, post will work with companies to identify U.S. speakers to be brought to New Zealand and possible International Visitor Program participants, with the goal of educating New Zealand’s health practitioners, policymakers and consumers on pharmaceuticals’ role in health care.
Unsworth says the MedicinesNZ campaign is open and transparent, but I couldn’t find the slides referred to on their website. On the other hand, they clearly are lobbying for concessions to be made in relation to the Trans-Pacific Free Trade agreement. That is certainly not being conducted in an open and transparent way.
We get a good deal for our drug-buying through Pharmac. As the story says, Morrison and Unsworth clashed on Morrison’s Facebook page. Morrison says “I am able to purchase drugs here (from the drug companies) in New Zealand cheaper than they sell to their fellow Americans – the US system is not a system we should seek to replicate in New Zealand.”