[Ip-health] WHO Members To Address Proposals For Financing Developing Country R&D

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Fri May 25 00:59:20 PDT 2012

 *WHO Members To Address Proposals For Financing Developing Country R&D *
Published on 22 May 2012 @ 11:44 pm

By *William New* <http://www.ip-watch.org/author/william/>, Intellectual
Property Watch

Members of the World Health Organization at their annual meeting tomorrow
will address proposals for ways to finance research and development for
diseases which afflict mainly developing countries but for which there are
not lucrative markets.

The World Health Assembly (WHA) is *meeting from 21-26
Tomorrow morning (23 May), members are scheduled to address the issue of
financing R&D for neglected diseases.

At issue is a report from the Consultative Expert Working Group on Research
and Development: Financing and Coordination (CEWG), which was established
at the last WHA to come up with ideas.

The group issued its report last month, *available

There are now four proposals related to the CEWG report for the WHA to
consider tomorrow, according to sources. Broadly speaking, two of them –
Kenya and Paraguay for the UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) group –
are in favour of agreeing to move toward a binding convention. The other
two – from Switzerland and the United States – would undertake a process
but not clearly pre-judging the outcome as a binding convention.

Committee A of the WHA is expected to take up the proposals immediately
after a brief plenary session starting the day tomorrow. Countries may take
the floor to signal support for one proposal or another. It is possible
that a drafting group will be created to address the various proposals,
with the aim of getting agreement on one proposal by week’s end, sources

At a WHA side event today, WHO Director General Margaret Chan appeared to
be lukewarm to the idea of a binding convention. She praised the group for
setting a high standard for managing divisive views and transparency, and
noted that the WHO secretariat is there to implement whatever policies are
decided by the member states.

But Chan mentioned the failure of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco
Control to get all countries to fulfil their binding obligations by June of
this year. She further said that sometimes there is an agreement that is
not binding but still does very well in getting compliance. The question is
whether or not countries are committed to the health of their populations.
If they are, she said, then “there are many ways to skin a cat.”

This fit with a view taken at another side event in the evening by a member
of the US delegation, who said that he has been “sceptical” about the idea
of a binding treaty since it assumes that all countries will sign it and
live up to it once negotiated. He also cited the Tobacco Convention as an
example, since there is no enforcement for those who do not comply.

But James Love, executive director of Knowledge Ecology International,
countered at the event by saying that there are examples of agreements
where the norms get ratified at the national level even if not signed by a
government, and that there can be a “no shirking” effect pushing countries
to live up to obligations.

At the earlier WHA side event today, the CEWG chair and vice chair, John
Arne Røttingen, presented the report again, saying the group was made up of
professionals with a “mixed set of experiences,” and that the process took
place transparently and with a positive outcome. The group narrowed over a
100 proposals down to a small set of recommendations, including to
negotiate a convention on financing of R&D for neglected diseases.

The basic underlying ideas that emerged from the group discussions,
Røttingen said, were that: affordable products can best be achieved through
open competition in production where intellectual property rights are not a
sufficient incentive; that it requires the de-linking of cost and price; it
requires upfront public financing of R&D; and R&D is re-established as a
global public good with a need for public financing.

He showed a graph that explained how de-linking of R&D from price would
move development from a private to a public activity.

CEWG Vice-Chair Claudia Inês Chamas of Brazil said the group considered
proposals on the basis of a range of criteria, including: public impact,
efficiency/cost effectiveness, technical feasibility, financial, management
of IPRs, de-linking, access/potential to lower prices,
governance/accountability, and capacity building.

Six proposals met the criteria well. They include a global framework on
R&D; direct grants to companies; patent pools; pooled funds; open
approaches to R&D; and milestone prizes.

“It is not realistic to expect voluntary contributions to raise large
amounts of funding,” she said. Proponents pointed to the successful model
employed by UNITAID, in which airline taxes represent some 70 per cent of
its financial base.

She said some governments are not meeting their goals on spending on health
research. The proposal would ask governments to commit to goals, preferably
using a target of R&D spending as a set portion of 0.01 per cent of annual
GDP on R&D aimed at developing countries. Using 2009 figures, this could
bring about $6 billion per year, they said. Funds would be pooled for
maximum impact. Røttingen called the amount sought “miniscule” compared
with spending by governments to fix the financial system in recent years.
There are also recommendations for coordination, such as to create a
“global health R&D observatory, and establish an advisory mechanism, with
WHO playing a central role in coordination.

But the conclusion of the working group was that a global binding
instrument is needed, in the form of a convention like the WHO Framework
Convention on Tobacco Control. Principles for the instrument are that it
included de-linking, all governments are involved, it provides a
sustainable funding mechanism, and it is supplementary to the existing IP
system, she said.

The next steps are for the WHA to consider establishing a working group or
technical committee of two members from each region to undertake
preliminary work for drafting an agreement. It would also establish an
intergovernmental negotiating body.

The aim would be to create a single coordinated place to address these
issues, including to prepare data on R&D.

What is needed are “sustainable and pragmatic solutions,” Røttingen said.
“We don’t need more patchwork.”

But the proposal is not for a separate system, rather it could be “fully
integrated,” he said.

Amb. Tom Mboya Okeyo of Kenya also addressed the evening side event. He
called the discussions around neglected disease R&D financing a “marathon”
as it has been going on for over four years. In a marathon, he said, “you
have to know when to step up the pace,” and said now is the time to act on
the CEWG proposal.

Mboya said normally diplomats will shelve a report if they don’t like it,
or if it contains something in it, will set up another working group. “But
here it is different,” he said. “We have 2.7 billion people out there who
are suffering, so we have to do something different.”

“What is needed is not setting up another working group or another expert
group,” he said. “What is needed is for the 65th World Health Assembly to
agree on a [strategy] for an R&D convention,” building on the earlier
WHA-agreed global strategy and plan of action for neglected diseases.

*Other participants at the evening side event were:** Michelle Childs,
director of policy and advocacy, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Access
Campaign; Tido von Schoen-Angerer, executive director, MSF Access Campaign;
Jon Pender, vice president of government affairs for GlaxoSmithKline and
chair of the IFPMA Global Health Committee; and Pascale Boulet , advisor,
Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi); Tessel Mellema, advisor,
Health Action International, and Love of KEI.*

*MSF, DNDi and Health Action International were strongly in support of the
R&D convention approach. *

*Love said he has been coming to Geneva for years and that report after
report has shown the need for addressing R&D for neglected diseases. “The
core of this proposal is how to mobilize resources for neglected disease
R&D,” he said, adding that it should not be a large obligation for
countries that are already investing in this type of R&D. *

*P**ender of GSK said he is not certain that a binding instrument is needed
to address the problem, and gave several examples of initiatives the
private sector is undertaking, such as for a malaria vaccine where, he
said, there is no commercial market, and “there will be no attempt to
recover the costs of R&D or my trips to Geneva.”**


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