Activist Martyn Goddard told ABC Radio this week his concerns about the Free Trade Agreement’s impact on pharmaceutical costs were of vital importance to HIV-positive people.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m a consumer. I’m somebody with HIV, Goddard said. The only difference between me and somebody in Uganda is the PBS [Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme]. Without the PBS, I and most other people with my disease in this country would be dead. That’s why we’re interested.

Goddard was co-author of a submission presented last week to the Senate Select Committee, currently meeting on the Free Trade Agreement.

The submission claimed the proposed FTA with the United States would give more power to US drug companies, leading to a projected 30 percent rise in drug prices.

The FTA also includes the introduction of an independent review committee consisting of Australian and US members, with representatives of US drug companies. The submission stated the new committee would have the power to overturn Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee decisions, according to several statements from the industry and the American side.

Tony Abbott told ABC Radio this week the committee could not be overruled. A representative of the National Association Of People Living With HIV/AIDS told Sydney Star Observer she did not believe there would be any immediate rise in the cost of HIV drugs, but that the ambiguous language of the FTA was enough to cause concern.

Furthermore, NAPWA executive officer Jo Watson said the independent committee would lead to delays in the approval of new drugs.

NAPWA’s more concerned that [the FTA] will possibly be the beginning of an onslaught that looks at slowing down approvals for generic listings, Watson said. The pharmaceutical companies will [also] have more opportunities to revisit decisions or processes, which will indeed see a number of blowouts in costs in terms of supporting the entire structure of the PBS.

The Senate Select Committee meet until 9 June.

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