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  • Physicians and Scientists-in-Training Push for Access in TPP Negotiations

    According to recently leaked text of the Intellectual Property Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the United States and other governments are prioritizing multinational corporate profits over patients and consumers around the world including their own citizens. The American Medical Student Association (AMSA), Australian Medical Student Association, International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), IFMSA-Quebec, Student Global AIDS Campaign (SGAC), and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) today sent a letter to TPP negotiators urging them to ensure that all TPP provisions provide future patients access to evidence-based and effective medicines and procedures rather than forcing us, as practitioners, to compromise our medical professionalism and the quality of care we are able to provide our patients.

    On November 13, 2013, WikiLeaks released the entire consolidated negotiating text for the Intellectual Property (IP) Chapter of the TPP. These organizations, representing pharmacists, biomedical researchers, and physicians-in-training from countries participating in TPP negotiations, expressed their concerns regarding the chapter text stating “the proposed provisions will severely restrict access to affordable medicines, access to knowledge, and access to responsible innovation.”

    This week, TPP negotiators are meeting in Salt Lake City to further negotiate the Intellectual Property Chapter provisions. The organizational letter calls for the following:

    • Removal of dispute resolution provisions that will compromise any of the safeguards found in the WTO TRIPS Agreement that allow governments to use its flexibilities to protect public health within their borders
    • Removal of any provisions that would lower the global standards for earning patents including “evergreening” or use of minor modifications of existing drugs to extend market exclusivity
    • Removal of any provision to provide data exclusivity for biologics
    • Exemption from patent infringement of diagnostic, therapeutic, and surgical procedures similar to 35 USC 287(c) allowing for medical practitioners to be immunized from a suit particularly when the machine, manufacture or composition of matter itself is not patented
    • Removal of any provision such as patent term adjustments for patent prosecution or regulatory periods that would delay entry of generic drugs into the market, thereby restricting access to affordable medicines.
    • Removal of patent linkage provisions that would cause drug regulatory authorities to take on the additional task of early patent enforcement, allowing for bogus patents to be a barrier to generic drug registration.

    Even if you're not a negotiator, you can still take action to make sure that the TPP prioritizes patients over profit. Click here to join Doctors Without Borders in sending letters to the United States Trade Representative Michael Forman and to spread the word about the TPP's harmful provisions with some sample Tweets and Facebook posts.

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  • AMSA Testifies On TTIP Negotiations

    Yesterday, AMSA National President Dr. Nida Degesys testified in front of the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

    Below are some of her comments that were submitted on behalf of the organization regarding the Administration’s intention to enter into negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Agreement.

    As physicians-in-training, we believe that trade agreements should promote public health and access to medicines. For this reason, we urge the exclusion of any and all intellectual property provisions as well as any tobacco and alcohol provisions in the TTIP. Finally, we demand full transparency in the negotiations.

    First, during our medical training, we witness firsthand how access to affordable medications is critical in preventing unnecessary deaths due to both infectious and non-communicable diseases. Unfortunately, it appears that recent free trade agreements (FTAs) including the Australia-United States FTA and Korea-United States FTA as well as the current Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations compromise this access by imposing unprecedented TRIPS-plus IP provisions. These provisions have the potential to jeopardize millions of lives in participating countries by granting monopoly protections to pharmaceutical companies, which significantly drive up the costs of medicines. Even in the United States, there has been an outcry from the physician community regarding the high cost of medicines. Just last month, over 100 oncologists agreed that the prices of brand-name cancer drugs is “astronomical, unsustainable, and perhaps even immoral.” The United States health care system has greatly benefitted from generic competition......It is unacceptable that cost as a result of this agreement will become a barrier to access and ultimately, a healthy life.

    On behalf of more than 35,000 physicians-in-training, we implore you to ensure that any TTIP agreement ensures our future patients are able to access evidence-based and effective medicines and procedures rather than forcing us to compromise our medical professionalism and the quality of care we provide our patients.

    To ensure the TTIP does not compromise access to medicines AMSA is urging the following:

    • Prohibition of “evergreening” or use of minor modifications of existing drugs to extend market exclusivity;
    • Exemption from patent infringement of diagnostic, therapeutic, and surgical procedures similar to 35 USC 287(c); 
    • Rejection of any provision to provide data exclusivity for biologics;
    • Removal of intellectual property as an actionable “investment” allowing pharmaceutical and medical device companies to skirt domestic regulation and overturn national public health legislation; and
    • Preservation of existing national pharmaceutical benefit schemes such as the Pharmaceutical Benefits Board in Sweden, Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme in the United Kingdom, and the Veteran Health Administration in the United States.

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  • Let's Go NCDFREE!

    Launched by the Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network and Australian design firm Local Peoples, NCDFREE (www.ncdfree.org), is a global social movement that will address NCD (non-communicable disease) inequalities and highlight young change-makers striving to make a difference locally and worldwide.

    NCDs, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and lung disease, kill more people than any other cause worldwide – 35 million every year. Instead of blaming individuals and painting NCDs as a disease affecting older, wealthier people, NCDFREE will change the narrative to one that shows the NCD burden resting largely in developing countries and affecting individuals in the prime of their lives.

    The first step in defining the NCD narrative is through three short films. These films will highlight the global inequities wrapped up with NCDs by profiling the inspiring work of young change-makers in Bangladesh, Kenya, and Mongolia.

    For a glimpse of the type of films that will follow, check out our short film: http://vimeo.com/62332644.

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  • Landmark Ruling on Generic Drugs

    Today, India's Supreme Court rejected an application from Novartis AG for a patent on a cancer drug. This is a landmark ruling that will ensure that poor patients worldwide will have access to lifesaving medications.

    Novartis' application asked for a new patent to protect its investment in the cancer drug Glivec. India has a large generic drug industry - almost $26 billion - so this decision impacts much of the developing world.

    AMSA continues to pressure pharmaceutical companies to provide affordable medicines to developing countries and lobbies to ensure that international trade regulations afford the right to do so.

    Read more from the New York Times.

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  • Medicines Patent Pool Signs Agreement with ViiV for Expansion of Access to Pediatric AIDS Drugs

    AMSA welcomes the recent announcement of a collaboration between the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) and ViiV to improve access to pediatric HIV medicines and stimulate creation of new pediatric formulations, including a license for the pediatric formulation of a crucial antiretroviral, abacavir, which will greatly expand access for at least 98.7 percent of children living with HIV.

    The Memorandum of Understanding signed by both parties greatly improves upon the previous licenses negotiated by the MPP and is the most far-reaching agreement yet between the MPP and a pharmaceutical company. In particular, AMSA would like to congratulate the MPP on specific provisions in the agreement: an expanded geographic scope of 118 countries as well as any country without a blocking patent for the abacavir sub-licenses as well as any pipeline product for pediatric use, a royalty-free and non-exclusive abacavir license, the ability to manufacture anywhere in the world, lack of restrictions on the procurement of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and finished product in the licensed territory, and a commitment to work with third-parties to develop fixed-dose combinations.

    “While we applaud ViiV’s efforts in working with the Medicines Patent Pool to increase access to these life-saving medicines, we hope that continued negotiations will lead to similar, if not better agreements for drugs in their pipeline, such as dolutegravir for both children and adults,” says Reshma Ramachandran, AMSA’s PharmFree Fellow. “We hope that other companies including Johnson and Johnson, Merck, and AbbVie as well as GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer that launched ViiV will continue to work with the Medicines Patent Pool to further efforts to collaboratively maximize access to these drugs for patients worldwide.”

    In December 2012, AMSA joined other organizations including Health Global Access Project, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, and Oxfam International to call upon pharmaceutical companies to enter into and conclude negotiations with the MPP.

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  • AMSA at the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement Negotiations: Locked Out

    This week, Reshma Ramachandran, AMSA's PharmFree Fellow, and Dr. Elizabeth Wiley, AMSA's National President, traveled to Auckland, New Zealand to participate in the 15th Round of Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement negotiations as a stakeholder group. Back in June, AMSA participated in the 13th Round of TPP negotiations in San Diego and the 14th Round of TPP negotiations in Leesburg, VA in September. At stake in these negotiations is access to medicines and procedures as well as public health concerns like tobacco and alcohol. For more information about the TPP and to sign onto an international petition opposing provisions that limit access to medicines and threaten public health, check out AMSA's TPP webpage here.

    At this round of negotiations, however, Reshma and Liz arrived in Auckland to find that stakeholders had been "locked out" of negotiations with the exception of Stakeholder Day on Friday, December 7. With the possibility that the IP chapter of the agreement would be considered during this round, this was very disappointing news. The lockout means that stakeholders like AMSA were precluded from meeting with negotiators --- while corporate representatives from Phrma and other industries enjoyed unrestricted access to the negotiations.

    AMSA signed on to the statement below with other stakeholder groups to express its disappointment with the decision to exclude stakeholders from negotiations:

    Academics, experts, consumer groups, Internet freedom organizations, libraries, educational institutions, patients and access to medicines groups have flown a long way from around the world to Auckland, New Zealand, to engage with delegates in the 15th round of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

    For the first time, however, we have been locked out of the entire venue, except for a single day out of the 10 days of negotiations. This not only alienates us as members of public interest groups, but also the hundreds of thousands of innovators, educators, patients, students, and Internet users who have sent messages to government representatives expressing their concerns with the TPP. All of us oppose the complete unjustifiable secrecy around the negotiations, but more importantly, the IP provisions that could potentially threaten our rights, and innovation.

    These new physical restrictions on us are reflective of the ongoing lack of transparency that has plagued the TPP negotiations from the very beginning.

    Industry lobbyists looking to protect their outdated business models have, if anything, been provided greater access and influence over the drafting of the agreement than our groups. We are here on the ground in Auckland to ensure that the TPP really levels the playing field for access to knowledge, access to health and medicines, innovation, and economic development around the world. No matter how much they continue to block us from these negotiations, the more determined we become to ensure that citizens and expert voices are heard.


    American Medical Student Association (US)
    Consumers International (International)
    Electronic Frontier Foundation (International)
    Electronic Frontiers Australia (Australia)
    InternetNZ (New Zealand)
    Knowledge Ecology International (US)
    Malaysian AIDS Council (Malaysia)
    Malaysian Women’s Action for Tobacco Control and Health – MyWATCH (Malaysia)
    New Zealand Nurses Association (New Zealand)
    ONG Derechos Digitales (Chile)
    OpenMedia.Ca (Canada)
    Public Citizen (US)
    Public Health Association of Australia (Australia)
    Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (International)

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  • What are you doing on December 1st?

    World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.

    We are already excited for 2012 and have started putting together tools for future physicians across the globe. 

    AMSA members are working to impact national and international policy related to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and to provide AMSA chapters with the tools to engage students in the fight, while teaching the skills of political advocacy. For World AIDS Day 2012, AMSA has prepared a toolkit, providing information and ideas to raise awareness in medical schools and local communities.

    World AIDS Day is an opportunity for you to learn the facts and get involved. Start planning early - December will be here before we know it! 

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  • We Can End AIDS!!!

    We at the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) are very excited for tomorrow's We Can End AIDS March in Washington, DC! AMSA will be joining thousands of other marchers and asking for "accountability from Big Pharma and government officials around the world."

    What does this mean?

    We want our governments to put patients ahead of pharmaceutical profits. Instead of being influenced by Big Pharma to create trade policies and legislation that enables access to affordable medicines rather than expensive, brand name alternatives. Only 7.4 million of the 34 million infected with HIV worldwide are currently receiving ARVs. We know thanks to the NIH funded HPTN052 study that treatment is prevention. We need our policymakers take this science and put this into practice through laws that allow for patients worldwide to have access to cheaper generics.

    To find out more or join us in DC tomorrow - http://www.amsa.org/AMSA/Homepage/Events/IAC.aspx

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  • The International AIDS Conference....the Missing Link

    By Marce Abare

    I’m from rural New England. My childhood house was actually inside a cow pasture. Looking for a ticket out, the appeal of going to college was primarily the chance to see new places. Initially it was through travel that I began to appreciate the rawness, both beautiful and ill, that determine the environments in which we live.

    I had the opportunity to work at a pediatric hospital in South Africa in 2002. It was a place where antiretroviral drugs weren’t available to average citizens unless they could enroll in a research study. While witnessing HIV-positive infants and toddlers die needlessly for lack of medicine, I realized that there are specific reasons why people facing the same circumstances – in this case HIV infection – can and should be expected to undergo completely different outcomes based on where they live, the color of their skin, how much money and social capital can be called upon for help. Maybe it was easier for me to see the stark contrast created by injustice while traveling, but upon returning home to North Carolina, where there were hundreds of North Carolinians on waiting lists for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, I started wondering how different these places really are. Between Durban and Durham, what seemed the greatest distinctions were the nature of public rhetoric and the scale and visibility of a problem; of course the roots of social injustice were the same.

    Looking back to a decade ago, I left South Africa brimming with new knowledge but without tools to act.
    The 2004 International AIDS Conference (IAC) filled in this missing link. I traveled to Bangkok and found myself in the midst of a powerful, well-versed and goal-focused community of Thai people living with HIV, drug users, sex workers and allies from around the world standing together, that I understood the spectrum of avenues of engagement through which each of us can play a role that makes a difference. 

    Whether it’s learning to use media to raise public awareness of industry tactics to generate profit in contrast with access shortfalls, understanding proceedings in which trade policies are determined, or shaping legislative or regulatory decisions that must be reoriented to a public health paradigm—the world’s best minds in activism gather at the IAC every year.

    I am particularly proud to be an AMSA member this year, when for the first time in more than two decades, thanks to President Obama’s leadership in lifting in the ban on entry for those living with HIV, the IAC will be held on U.S. soil.

    I urge you to attend. Health professional students will be marching alongside the world in Washington, D.C. Our message is simple: make access to treatment and prevention universal; address the lack of adequate housing, education, income opportunities and food security; reverse discriminatory policies that reinforce marginalization and fuel the spread of HIV.

    This is a once in a lifetime opportunity - join us!!

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  • Activists mobilizing at International AIDS Conference

    The year 2011 was a year marked with amazing advances in the global fight against HIV/AIDS:

    ● A groundbreaking National Institutes of Health (NIH) study demonstrated that antiretrovirals can reduce heterosexual HIV transmission by 96%.
    ● Economists created models showing that treating 6 million people by 2013 can prevent 12 million new infections by 2020 with cost savings in only 4 years.
    ● On World AIDS Day, Obama announced a commitment to treating 6 million people by 2013.

    It was through many of your efforts, including letter and editorial writing as well as hosting events with your chapters, that this was possible.

    2012 brings another opportunity to harness this momentum to continue the fight. The U.S. for the first time ever will be the host of the International AIDS Conference (IAC) from July 24-27th in Washington D.C. You, as an AMSA member, have an opportunity to attend this inspiring conference and join a huge mobilization in D.C. AMSA is an official anchor organization in the coalition of international human rights community groups that will converge in D.C. on July 24th during the IAC. The goal - to intensify political pressure to ensure access to life-saving HIV treatment and reduce new HIV infections. The IAC Coalition has developed a comprehensive platform of 12 demands regarding access to essential HIV/AIDS treatment (full platform attached to this email). We are hoping that you will join us in sending a strong message to policymakers that AMSA is dedicated to the goal of stopping HIV/AIDS. We are at a major turning point in HIV/AIDS history and now have the potential to be the generation that stops the HIV/AIDS pandemic. But, this cannot happen without your energy and presence at this pivotal conference.

    There are countless ways for you to become involved with this mobilization and attend! Some of you may have already planned to attend and will be presenting posters or engaging in conference sessions. On July 24th, please make sure you set aside time to come out in your white coats and join the demonstration. We also need lots of help mobilizing other students from your own school. If you are interested in becoming a point person for such recruitment, please let us know so we can provide you with materials to get your peers as excited as we are to be a part of this effort. If you want to help out even further, we would love for you join our national outreach committee to coordinate other chapters around the country. Let us know if you want to get involved at any level or if you have any questions by filling this form out. Like us on Facebook too.

    Even if you cannot come to D.C. in July, you can still make a difference and represent AMSA through visits to congressional members, letters-to-the-editor, and events at your school. These efforts, even at a local level, will signal to the international community present at the IAC that our nation’s medical students are invested in ensuring that President Obama keeps his promise to place 6 million people on treatment by 2013 and want to make a difference in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.

    As an AMSA member, you have the power to influence the direction of the HIV/AIDS pandemic this July. The science and economics are clear – the end of this disease IS in sight. We hope that you will join us in making this happen during our generation.

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