[Ip-health] RELEASE: At WHA, Students Urge US, Europe to Show Leadership on Neglected R&D

Bryan Collinsworth bcollinsworth at essentialmedicine.org
Sat May 26 03:50:53 PDT 2012

Universities Allied for Essential Medicines disappointed by wealthy
nations’ obstruction of new medical research investments

**For Immediate Release:** May 26, 2012
Contact:** Bryan Collinsworth, +1 646 450 0752

GENEVA - As the World Health Assembly closed a week of intense negotiations
over whether and how to increase global funding for neglected health
research, the student members of Universities Allied for Essential
Medicines (UAEM) <http://www.essentialmedicine.org> expressed
disappointment that the United States and several European nations fought
to obstruct progress rather than playing a leadership role.

“As medical and law students, we know that increased funding of research on
neglected health needs would save millions of lives in developing
countries,” said Johanne Helene Iversen, a UAEM member and medical student
at the University of Bergen in Norway. “Many of us hope to work on this
research ourselves professionally, so we’re very disappointed that the U.S.
and Europe are working to delay or weaken global action rather than showing
visionary leadership.”

WHA delegates spent much of the week discussing an expert working group’s
recommendation that the global community negotiate a legally binding
convention to fund R&D on neglected health needs. Under such a convention,
countries would commit public funding for innovative health research in
areas that disportionately impact developing countries and have typically
received little or no investment.

While many developing countries expressed strong support for such a
convention and the collective commitments it would entail, the United
States and several European countries refused to support initiation of
intergovernmental negotiations, insisting instead on an incremental process
to further “analyze” the recommendations of the expert working group. This
watered-down approach was approved as a resolution by the World Health
Assembly on Saturday.

“Four years ago, many American students like us were inspired by Barack
Obama’s vision of renewed global leadership and international cooperation,”
said Courtney Reynolds, an MD/PhD student and UAEM chapter leader at the
University of California, Irvine. “That makes it even more disappointing to
see the US delegation going out of its way to block this initiative and
bluntly refusing to coordinate with other nations to promote desperately
needed research for the world’s poorest patients.”

US opposition is especially baffling because the United States is the only
country already investing in neglected disease research at the level
recommended by the R&D convention proposal. Rather than using its global
prominence to encourage other countries to increase their funding
commitments through coordinated action, however, the US delegation at WHA
has insisted on a piecemeal, “go-it-alone” approach.

“We really hope that the strongest economies will show greater initiative
and support for this process going forward,” Iversen added. “There’s so
much they could do to reduce the gap in innovation and health care for the
most vulnerable global populations - but they need to step up and lead.”



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