Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur says she will vote to defeat the new North American Free Trade Agreement worked out by the Trump Administration last fall. On Friday the Democrat said one of the reasons she is opposed to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is an expansion of drug company exclusivity.
“You weren’t expecting that the pharmaceutical issue would be hidden in a trade bill but it is,” said Kaptur.
The agreement would give drug companies a 10-year monopoly on a group of drugs called biologics that are made from living cells. While still relatively new, they are very expensive and now make up for the largest share of money the federal government spends on drugs for the Medicare Part B drug plan, according to Kaptur. The federal government is forbidden from negotiating with drug companies for lower prices.
“You have to have an agreement work for everyone,” said Kaptur, “and you shouldn’t have private interests like this trying to tuck their little special interest privileges in trade bills to lock the hands of the American people to get the healthcare that they need.”
Supporters of the patent extension argue it is a way to protect American intellectual property. Canada allows an eight-year exclusivity on new biologic drugs. The U.S. grants 12 years, but Mexico offers none.
Kaptur says the recent steep increases in prescription drug costs are due to drug companies gaming the system to avoid giving up their monopoly.
“And if there’s a generic that comes online they then lock them up in court for years and years and years because the big pharmaceutical companies have enough money to block competition. And that’s what’s going on here,” she said.
The Democratically controlled House has to sign off on the USMCA. Last week they heard from Trump’s U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who “got an earful,” says Kaptur.
But pharmaceutical carve-out or not, the Toledo-based representative says she will vote against the new NAFTA, as she did with the original NAFTA because, Kaptur says, of concerns that American jobs will be lost to Mexico.
“We said to Mr. Lighthizer, the trade ambassador, without a continental labor agreement you will constantly outsource jobs from places like Ohio to low-wage havens where people earn a dollar or two an hour.”