[Ip-health] MSF intervention on CEWG R&D meeting at WHO

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Mon Nov 26 03:38:29 PST 2012

*The open-ended Member States meeting on the follow up of the report of the
Consultative Expert Working Group (CEWG) on Research and Development
Financing and Coordination, November 26-28th 2012*

*Intervention by Dr Manica Balasegaram, Médecins Sans Frontières

After ten years of debates and discussions and the publication of numerous
expert reports, the imperative is clear for Member States to take concrete
action and spur biomedical innovation in areas neglected by the current
innovation system.  It is the responsibility of all governments to ensure
the health needs of their populations are met. We cannot afford any further

Three deadly failures must urgently be addressed.

First, suitable diagnostics, vaccines and drugs for many diseases are
unavailable; there are no appropriate diagnostics or drugs for children
with TB for example. A number of previously treatable diseases are becoming
far more difficult to treat because of antibiotic resistance. The
development of new antibiotics has been neglected, and commercial
incentives are insufficient to encourage R&D.

Second, what is available is too often poorly adapted to the areas of
greatest need. The suitability of products should be considered at the very
beginning of product development. A recent MSF study in Niger found that
the most common rotavirus genotypes documented there are not included in
the two existing vaccines that aim to prevent the disease. Where tools are
designed primarily for industrialized countries, the specific needs of
those in developing countries are too often an afterthought.

The third aspect of this failure concerns access to the fruits of medical
innovation. Even when there is enough of a profit incentive to drive
medical innovation, the resulting products are too often priced out of
reach. New drugs to treat HIV or cancer can cost hundreds of times more
than a person’s average annual income.

Progress has been made over the last decade, but it is far from adequate.
Without significantly strengthening public leadership and public funding we
will be left with only a piecemeal response.

Steps must be taken urgently to operationalize key recommendations in the
CEWG report. This includes:

   - establishing mechanisms for setting needs & priorities for R&D;
   - monitoring R&D flows and coordinating R&D efforts;
   - securing sustainable financing;
   - and establishing a R&D Convention to provide a framework that allows
   these different elements to be integrated. These issues are all
   interrelated if only one element is addressed, the rest will not follow.
   Unless funding follows priorities for example, coordination cannot be

Today you have an unprecedented opportunity to address the weaknesses in
the innovation system and ensure that R&D responds to medical needs, and
that people can access the fruits of this innovation. We urge you to work
towards a binding convention for needs-driven R&D. This should start by
focusing on the objectives, principles, scope and functions of this
framework.  In parallel, projects to implement the R&D proposals
recommended in the report should be taken forward in the short to medium
term to address the urgency of the situation.

We need leadership and collective action from Member States, and from WHO.

- ends -

Joanna Keenan
Press Officer
Médecins Sans Frontières - Access Campaign
E: joanna.keenan[at]geneva.msf.org
T: twitter.com/joanna_keenan


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