Trump’s NAFTA 2.0 Puts Big Pharma First, America Second
And yet, the president’s new version of NAFTA — the uncreatively named United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) — actually forbids the U.S. Congress from curtailing Big Pharma’s patent monopolies on some of the world’s most expensive drugs. In other words: Trump’s “America First” trade deal restricts U.S. sovereignty, for the sake of locking in high drug prices.
In the U.S. today, drug companies that produce new “biologics” — specialty drugs made with living cells — are provided 12 years of immunity from generic competition. This awards such firms monopolistic pricing power over their (often life-saving) medicines for more than a decade after their wares hit the market. The rationale for this policy is that companies will not invest in high-cost biologic research if they aren’t guaranteed windfall profits for their innovations. But even if one accepts this (tendentious) premise, a 12-year monopoly appears both arbitrary and excessive. In Mexico, biologic makers are only immunized against competition from so-called “biosimilars” for five years; in Canada, such protections last eight. Congressional Democrats have drafted legislation that would cut the duration of biologic monopolies down to seven years.