PETALING JAYA - If the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPPA) gets signed as it is, consumer groups are worried that the increased price of medicines will force Malaysians to tighten their wallets again.
The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj said they were aware of the repercussions of the agreement if no amendments were made.
"The TPPA is currently being looked at, and our biggest concern is its impact on drugs. We feel that pharmaceutical companies are making medicines more expensive, and we have expressed these concerns before.
"We have to take another look at the agreement and find a way to get an outcome without negative impact to the consumers," he said.
S.M. Mohamed Idris, president of the Consumers Association of Penang, explained that at its current state, the TPPA would make it more difficult for Malaysians to get access to generic drugs.
"The TPPA will increase the term of a patent. At present, the term is 20 years from the time a patent application is filed.
"This could be amended, with the TPPA, to 20 years after the patent is granted or after marketing approval is given by the Health Ministry.
"The term of patent will be much longer, thereby depriving the Malaysian consumer of cheaper generics for a long period of time," he said.
Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia president Datuk Nadzim Johan agreed with his counterparts that the TPPA required changes.
"Most, if not all consumer groups, are against it. There are just too many parts in the agreement that are not to the consumers' advantage."
Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president Datuk Nancy Ho, when asked if consumers might put the blame of a price increase on pharmaceutical companies, said there were other factors contributing to pricing when the TPPA was signed.
But she agreed that more time was needed before the Government signed the agreement.
"People are still in an adjustment period after the implementation of the GST (Goods and Services Tax), so this may not be the best time (for the TPPA)," she said.