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    WHO Members To Address Proposals For Financing Developing Country R&D

    Published on 22 May 2012 @ 11:44 pm

    By , 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 May. 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 here.

    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 said.

    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.

    Pender 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.”

    William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

     


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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