New Zealand could end up paying more for medicine

New Zealand could end up paying more for medicine after a proposal from US President Donald Trump. This story on Stuff (joint winner website of the year) has the sharp headline “Trump wants to build a drug cartel – and wants NZ to pay for it,” which sums up the America–first plan. Because countries like NZ have national drug buying agencies (Pharmac here) they can negotiate lower prices from manufacturers. Rather than adopting that as a solution to high US prices, Trump says that amounts to other countries “cheating” and “bullying.”

In response, PM Jacinda Ardern said Pharmac would be protected in any future trade deal with the US. The NZ Herald (news website of the year) reports that New Zealand had always guarded Pharmac in trade negotiations, and Ardern said she wasn’t aware of any discussions with the US about it. Earlier in the year the government claimed a win for Pharmac in the TPP negotiations –archived report from Radio NZ – but with the US now making noises about getting back into the TPP, those battles may need to be fought again.

Could the US actually do it? That’s the question asked in this explainer on Stuff – the key point is whether the US can get the patent period for drugs extended in any trade deal. That’s a period in which a drug company can have an effective monopoly on the medicine, which is currently 20 years.