BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a deal that would ease trade between the 12 Pacific Rim countries participating in negotiations. It's been president Obama's top economic priority, but recently, the U.S. Senate voted not to even discuss whether to fast-track the plan.
Many medical professionals worry what this could mean for medication costs and global public health.
Every six months, Dr. David Holmes and a group of students, go to a rural village in Haiti on a medical mission. He says access to medication is almost non-existent.
"We gave out a lot of medications. They have a little room in their clinic and it there's hardly any medications there and it's hard to see that," said Dr. David Holmes, who is the director of Global Health Education at the University at Buffalo's Medical School.
Even on U.S. soil, the cost is a major barrier to getting necessary medications.
"People choose a lot of times between taking their blood pressure pills or putting food on the table and a lot of times people go without," said Holmes.
Generics have helped alleviate some of the hardship.
Some health professionals say the Trans-Pacific Partnership could undermine efforts to make lower-cost medications.
"The U.S. is insisting on provisions of the TPP that would effectively block competitive drug producers from entering the market for at least 12 years. Patients and medical providers like MSF would have no choice but to accept the inflated and simply unaffordable prices," said Dr. Deane Marchbein, the President of the U.S. Board of Directors for Doctors without Borders.
"It will lengthen, strengthen and broaden pharmaceutical monopolies, creating new, never-before-seen barriers to generic versions of similar drugs."
"If medications become more expensive, that's a huge public health threat," Holmes said.
The overall goal of the agreement is to ease taxes and restrictions to promote trade between participating countries. It would strengthen intellectual property rules to protect businesses.
"I don't know how much patent companies really need to make ends meet. Obviously, we don't want to bankrupt pharmaceutical companies. We need them to make our medications and save lives," said Holmes.
One major concern is that it's largely been done behind closed doors.
"The only reason we have any information about it is because people leak it. This is a total break with how trade deals were conducted in the past," said Marchbein.
"I was in disbelief that our government has been doing this in kind of secret and behind closed doors and that it was having such an incredible impact in the health and well being of people," Holmes said.
For the health organizations who have spoken out against the agreement, they're concerned particularly because this has been said to be a framework for trade deals moving forward.
In addtion, more countries can join at later dates. India has expressed interest in becoming a TPP member. Health professionals say that would be a major blow to public health moving forward, as the country produces 80 percent of generic medications.
"Pharmaceuticals and medicines are put firmly in the bandwidth of intellectual property," said Marchbein.
Holmes added, "Here our government is saying they're doing all these great things to stomp out disease overseas, and yet, now they're thinking about passing laws that would drive up the costs of medications."
Medical professionals are calling for increased transparency during negotiations. Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders is brainstorming more ways to research and develop affordable medications.
Time Warner Cable News reached out to the World Health Organization for comment. They are examining the issue and we will bring you a statement as soon as they release it.