I am a 29-year-old Bay Area resident with metastatic cervical cancer. I travel across the country for a government-funded clinical trial at the National Institutes of Health that is giving me hope, two years after my terminal diagnosis.
I know the life-and-death consequences of having access to the latest cancer treatments. That's why on Feb. 4, World Cancer Day, I engaged in a civil disobedience protest at the Washington, D.C., office of the pharmaceutical industry's lobbying association. The afternoon ended in arrest and a D.C. jail cell.
The pharmaceutical industry is pushing for expanded monopoly rights over medicines in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If they succeed and block the market competition that is needed to bring down medicine prices, the TPP could be a death sentence for cancer patients like me.
The TPP has been labeled a free trade agreement. However, hidden in the 5,000-page text is a pharma wish list of anti-free trade provisions. These terms would lock in U.S. policies that lead to exorbitant prices for medicines for cancer and other life-threatening diseases and export such rules to the 11 other TPP signatory nations.
My biological treatment would cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars if not for the NIH trial. Extreme monopoly protections mean pharmaceutical firms can reap enormous profits by price-gouging desperate people fighting for their very lives. And high drug prices deplete Medicaid and Medicare budgets as taxpayers' money turns into Big Pharma's staggering profits.
Today, in 2016, people without access to drug trials, insurance or government programs are dying of treatable cancers. The TPP would expand this broken system.
The day I was arrested, "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli was invoking his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination at a congressional hearing.
His raising the price of a live-saving medicine by 5,000 percent differs from the rest of the pharmaceutical industry's practices only by his unabashed gleefulness. The TPP would facilitate such greedy conduct while ignoring the concerns of patients and public health experts. It would even roll back modest improvements for access to affordable medicines included in trade agreements negotiated under the Bush administration.
Doctors Without Borders calls the TPP "the worst-ever trade agreement for access to medicines." That's no surprise, given that negotiations took place in secrecy for seven years, with privileged access for representatives from Big Pharma, while Congress, the public and the press were locked out.
I was arrested protesting the TPP in solidarity with other young adults with cancer who deserve access to treatments like mine.
We need access to medicines, not more rules that will be a death sentence to many people with cancer who cannot afford the new life-extending treatments.
In the Bay Area, we are fortunate to have a representative in Congress with tremendous influence. Rep. Nancy Pelosi has used her leadership position to advocate for more affordable health care in the United States and around the globe.
I urge her now to stand with patients and lead the charge in Congress to save us from the TPP death sentence.
Hannah Lyon is a resident of Oakland.