[Ip-health] Experts, NGOs ask WHA delegates to support feasibility study of funding cancer research without high prices

Zack Struver zack.struver at keionline.org
Thu May 4 08:09:35 PDT 2017


Experts, NGOs ask WHA delegates to support feasibility study of funding
cancer research without high prices

​On May 3, 2017, 29 civil society organizations and 33 health
professionals, activists, and economists — including Nobel Prize laureate
Joseph Stiglitz — asked delegates to the World Health Assembly (WHA) to
support a feasibility study on the progressive delinkage of the costs of
research and development from the price of cancer medicines. The groups and
experts sent a letter to the delegates (

The letter asked the delegates to “be open to alternative R&D models that
do not rely on unaffordable medicine prices as the predominant way to fund
cancer drug innovation,” and cited the high prices of cancer medicines and
the resulting limited access.

Today, delegates from around 20 to 25 countries meet in informal,
off-the-record negotiations on a proposed WHA resolution on cancer control
and prevention, where a feasibility study of delinkage was proposed. Some
countries were opposed to any mention of delinkage in the cancer
resolution. The negotiations resulted in a new text that had several
bracketed sections, conflicting objectives, and had reduced the ambition
for delinkage to a report, and even that was in brackets.
The working group will continue to meet ahead of the WHA, with their next
meeting scheduled for next week. The question is now whether the concept of
progressive delinkage will be retained in the cancer resolution, and if the
issue can be advanced further with a feasibility study, at the upcoming
World Health Assembly (May 22, 2017 to May 31, 2017).


A note on the term "delinkage"

At the negotiation, some objected to the delinkage study on the grounds
that “prices already have nothing to do with R&D costs, so there is no

The notion that drug prices are already delinked from R&D costs is only
true if you ignore the only rationale for high prices in the first place,
or the objections typically offered to measures that result in low prices.
We certainty don't think prices reflect R&D costs incurred, but we all
should acknowledge that the whole reason for patents, orphan drug
exclusivity, rights in test data, etc., is to provide an incentive to
invest in R&D. And, we should also acknowledge that whenever a compulsory
license or even a modest effort to roll back prices is considered, the
industry counters, with some truth (at least qualitatively), that this will
depress R&D. So what we are looking for is to examine getting rid of the
monopolies and high prices, while still having systems to ensure that R&D
is funded, including when it involves investors responding to incentives.
There are probably other ways to describe this, like “funding R&D without
time limited legal monopolies,” but the term delinkage, even though it does
not work for everyone, it being used as shorthand.​

Zack Struver, Communications and Research Associate
Knowledge Ecology International
zack.struver at keionline.org
Twitter: @zstruver <https://twitter.com/zstruver>
Office: +1 (202) 332-2670 <(202)%20332-2670> Cell: +1 (914) 582-1428

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