Breast Cancer Patient Protesting Big Pharma’s ‘Death Sentence’ Arrested Outside TPP Talks

Breast Cancer Patient Protesting Big Pharma’s ‘Death Sentence’ Arrested Outside TPP Talks
Political Health

Zahara Heckscher, a breast cancer patient who was wearing a t-shirt that read, “I Have Cancer. I Can’t Wait Years,” and holding a hospital drip pole that read “TPP: Don’t Cut My IV” was arrested in Atlanta, Georgia after allegedly ‘disrupting’ negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and the probable drug price gouging that will occur should certain provisions in the trade deal pass through legislation.

This colossal trade deal has been under fire by numerous activist groups for a number of negative impacts it would cause, but in this case the deal would make cancer medications prohibitively (more) expensive for many in the U.S. and other countries.

Video footage shows Heckscher being led away in handcuffs by police after she refused to leave an area inside the Westin Hotel where trade ministers were making their shady deals for the TPP.

Only high-level officials were invited to the secretive talks, and most sections of the TPP have only been public via leaks on alternative media sites like Wiki Leaks.

One concern for cancer patients involves a possible “death sentence clause,” listed in the proposed TPP that would allow de facto monopolies on biological medicines to be extended for up to 8 years.

Though the medicines that Heckscher and other cancer patients are currently taking are arguably just more poison provided by the Big Pharma industry, some biologicals (medicine created from living organisms) are sought by cancer patients to treat their disease. (Heckscher has been treated by biologicals including trastuzumab (Herceptin) and pertuzumab (Perjeta). She is currently undergoing chemotherapy as part of a clinical trial, and continues on denosumab (Xgeva) treatment as well.)

As she attempted to read a statement to gather press in the hotel lobby, Heckscher refused to stop explaining her concerns or to leave the area.

Peter Maybarduk, of Public Citizen, said:

“[This rule] represents the worst of secretive trade deals – a rule that has nothing to do with trade, but will lead to preventable suffering. You can put a suit and tie on this, but it still stinks.”

Heckscher explained her protest by saying:

“For thousands of women to die unnecessary of breast cancer because of the TPP is a horrible, cruel, premeditated, and avoidable catastrophe. The provisions being decided by TPP ministers today could allow drug monopolies on biologics for 8 years.  Some of these medicines cost up to tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

When you have breast cancer today, you can’t wait 8 years or 7 years or 6 years for a treatment to become available or affordable. When you have cancer, even a one-year delay in affordable medicine can be a death sentence. That is why we call this proposed provision of the TPP a ‘death sentence clause.’ If it passes, thousands of women like me will die waiting.”

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and his negotiating team warn:

“The USTR has long pushed for increased marketing exclusivity periods for biologics – medical products derived from living organisms, including many new and forthcoming cancer treatments. Exclusivity means product monopolies, with no competition from generics or biosimilars; medicine prices in the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars per person; and the rationing of treatment access.

Marketing exclusivity is separate from and independent of patent protection, though the protections may overlap. The USTR has supported an eight-year minimum monopoly period, while a majority bloc of negotiating countries will not consider more than five years’ exclusivity.”