[Ip-health] MSF on R&D treaty: Opportunity to transform medical innovation before health ministers

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Mon May 21 07:02:01 PDT 2012

Medecins Sans Frontieres press release on R&D treaty being discusssed at
the 65th WHA this week - for further details, please read the briefing

Opportunity to transform medical innovation before health ministers

*65th World Health Assembly to debate binding convention on R&D*

Geneva, 21 May 2012* – The world’s health ministers, gathering in Geneva
for the World Health Assembly this week, will decide whether or not to
start the process for a binding agreement that would jumpstart research and
development (R&D) for medical needs that are currently unmet. Today, the
international humanitarian medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières
(MSF) urged health ministers to seize the unique opportunity and give the
green light to a proposal that has been years in the making.  By passing a
resolution at the WHA, governments can this week take the first step to
making an R&D convention a reality.

“Medical innovation is not delivering for the needs of people in developing
countries.  Governments have the power, the responsibility and, from today,
the opportunity to change this,” said Michelle Childs, Director of
Policy/Advocacy at MSF’s Access Campaign. “A clear and compelling case has
been made for an R&D convention. WHO Member States must get on with
starting the process, and not look for excuses to delay.”

Today’s system for medical R&D is flawed, in that it is predominantly
driven by commercial rewards rather than health priorities.  This means
that research is steered towards areas that are the most profitable,
leaving fundamental medical needs – particularly those that
disproportionately affect developing countries like tropical diseases or
tuberculosis - unaddressed.

MSF field teams see the consequences of this every day, and struggle to
deliver quality care when appropriate medical tools do not exist. When
drugs, diagnostics and vaccines do exist, they are often unsuitable for use
in countries where MSF works, as they have been designed for resource-rich
countries. Unmet needs include: more effective treatments for
drug-resistant tuberculosis; paediatric versions of HIV drugs; a test to
determine whether a patient with Chagas disease has been cured; new
antibiotics to treat life-threatening infections in the face of increasing
resistance; and vaccines that do not need to be refrigerated or can be
given without an injection.

“Our field teams know where the medical needs are, but that knowledge isn’t
enough to address the gaps,” said Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer, Executive
Director of MSF’s Access Campaign. “We need to connect the research
priorities with the money, to drive the money spent on medical research to
where the needs are and to ensure that the fruits of innovation are
affordable and accessible. This is where the R&D convention can bring about

In April, a report was released by the Consultative Expert Working Group on
Research and Development: Financing and
a WHO-convened group of experts mandated to look at medical
innovation. They concluded that a binding convention “is needed to secure
appropriate funding and coordination to promote R&D needed to address the
diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries and which
constitute a common global responsibility.”

A convention would bring significant advantages. It would create an
evidence-based process to define priorities. Signatory countries would then
be bound to invest towards addressing those priorities. Importantly, any
research funded thanks to the convention would deliver accessible and
affordable products; for example, by ensuring price and supply commitments,
adopting flexible licensing policies for developers, and supporting open
innovation that would make knowledge available to others.

Over the past ten years, product development partnerships have been created
to fill some of the innovation gaps and new funding from philanthropic
foundations and governments has been forthcoming. But these efforts are
piecemeal and vulnerable.

“We need a more sustainable system, particularly now that donor funds are
increasingly scarce,” said Childs. “The convention would encourage a fair
contribution from all, but also shape how the money is spent. It should
ensure that the money goes further and achieves more by supporting
alternative models to stimulate R&D that cost less and deliver medical
tools that are accessible and affordable to those that need them”.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control provides a precedent of an
internationally binding agreement negotiated and adhered to under the
auspices of WHO.

- ends -

More information about the Ip-health mailing list