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    World Health Assembly: Agreement Reached On Neglected Disease R&D Process, But No Convention

    Published on 25 May 2012 @ 11:38 pm

    By , Intellectual Property Watch

    A proposal at this week’s World Health Assembly to negotiate a binding convention on financing research and development for neglected diseases – those predominantly afflicting poor populations – ran into resistance from developed countries which hold the view that another approach might be possible. But an agreement was reached on a way forward for the expert report that recommended the binding convention.

    The 65th World Health Assembly is taking place from 21-26 May.

    The agreement reached this evening in a closed-door drafting group meeting mandates the World Health Organization to hold an “open-ended” meeting of member states to analyse the report and feasibility of recommendations of an expert group that recommended the binding convention.

    The agreed text is available here [pdf]. (Note: this final version contains small changes to footnotes from the penultimate version circulated after the meeting.)

    The meeting will look at results from national and regional discussions and “develop proposals or options” relating to: research coordination; financing; and monitoring of R&D expenditures.

    It also called for increased investment in such R&D by governments, private sector, universities and non-governmental organisations, and urged members to hold national level consultations, participate in regional meetings and improve mechanisms for neglected disease R&D at the national level.

    The meeting likely will happen around October to December, sources said, as it will follow the WHO regional committee meetings around September, and will precede the annual WHO Executive Board meeting held in January.

    The issue will be presented at next year’s Assembly under a “substantive item” as a follow-up to the expert report that created the recommendations.

    Tomorrow morning this drafting group agreement will go before Committee A of the Assembly, and then the full Assembly itself at the closing ceremony in the afternoon.

    The idea for a binding convention was the chief recommendation of the highly regarded expert group that spent the past year analysing a wide range of options for financing R&D for diseases that fail to generate private sector investment due to small prospective markets.

    The Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development: Financing and Coordination (CEWG) analysed over 100 proposals on ways to finance such R&D, and concluded that a binding convention committing every nation to pitch in on financing would be the only way to solve the problem. The expert group produced a 200-page report.

    “[P]oor people suffer and die because there are no effective health technologies like medicines, vaccines or diagnostics,” the report preface said. “Markets fail because intellectual property rights are not an effective incentive in these circumstances, and public investment is also dominated by the rich world and its own health needs.”

    In the end, it was the rich world’s concern about the prospect of long negotiations for a new R&D mechanism not based on the IP system that blocked the binding convention proposal. But it also suffered from a lack of enthusiasm among African countries, possibly because it suggested the possibility that they also pay a small contribution to the fund.

    There were four proposals put forward to implement the CEWG report (IPW, WHO, 24 May 2012).

    Under pressure, according to sources, Kenya withdrew its proposal to immediately begin negotiating the binding convention.

    A developed country official told Intellectual Property Watch today that a binding convention seemed unnecessary, expensive, time-consuming, and not certain to work, as the WHO is not seeing full compliance with two other conventions, such as the International Health Regulations, perhaps because there are no sanctions. The preferable approach, the official said, would be to create voluntary measures to encourage contributions reaching the target level raised in the report – $6 billion. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was also mentioned several times during the week.

    Other funds, like the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, depend on voluntary funds. But it has recently undergone upheaval related to a shortfall in funding.

    During the week, remarks by WHO Director General Margaret Chan had the effect of undermining support for the idea of a convention, when she suggested that conventions do not always work and that other approaches may be best.

    A developing country official told Intellectual Property Watch today that without agreement on a binding convention, including an oversight body, the process of addressing the R&D financing shortage would continue to be ad hoc, rather than predictable and reliable.

    The final outcome document from this week’s drafting group not only removed any mention of a binding convention, it left out reference to the next meeting as one of an “intergovernmental” as that suggests a more formal structure and possible negotiation. But the final language also does not include the word “informal” in reference to the group, despite the wishes of developed countries.

    In the next meeting, those who want a convention will likely find a way to raise it. But those who are interested in proposals that the expert group deemed less likely to succeed also may begin raising them again.

    Public health advocates, from groups such as Médicins Sans Frontières, Knowledge Ecology International, and Health Action International, were highly upset during the week about efforts to block progress toward a binding convention. They accused the United States, France and some other European countries of working against the interests of the poor. But in the end, they appeared satisfied that the process was still moving forward.

    A US official said afterward, “We want to be productive. We encourage others to make a similar commitment.” The effort is to try and address the problem of these neglected diseases, the official said, “and I think we’re on a path to address them.” The US was the only country that contributes above 0.01 percent of its GDP to neglected disease R&D, the level of contribution suggested by the CEWG report.

    A Brazilian official afterward called it a “good outcome,” as they “ensured the spirit was still alive.” Many countries showed reluctance in the negotiations, the official said.

    Making a Long History Even Longer

    The CEWG was created by last year’s World Health Assembly, taking up the work of the previous year’s working group, whose results were not accepted by all member states. That expert group had been set up by the 63rd Assembly (IPW, WHO, 21 May 2012), following the 2008 WHA approval of a Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (IPW, WHO, 29 May 2008).

    The 2008 strategy and action plan followed the 2006 Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health (CIPIH), which was established in 2003. (Background Intellectual Property Watch stories from 2006 are here and here.)

    Representatives of a range of governments praised the work of the CEWG and recognised the report and analysis as valuable and legitimate.

    The 20 members of the CEWG came from academia, health ministries, science and technology offices and elsewhere, from all regions of the globe. The chair was from Norway, the vice-chair from Brazil.

    During the week, an attempt was made by Switzerland in committee to defer discussion on the report and four proposals until later and form the drafting group, a suggestion that Chan advanced. But some developing countries insisted that statements be made, so the issue was re-opened.

    A recurring theme at this week’s Assembly was from developing countries with concerns that WHO activities are increasingly aimed at treating illnesses rather than preventing them. The former is seen as favouring developed country medicines producers. At a presentation of the report by the chair and vice chair this week, there were several questions from developed countries inquiring how they would benefit from the scheme. Apparently, they were not convinced by what they heard.

    “Everybody appreciates the report and the technical analysis the group did,” the developed country official said today. “The difficulty is about some of the recommendations.”

    “Everybody agrees there’s a problem,” the official said. “More money is needed.” But once again, they could not come to agreement on how to raise it.

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

     

    Comments

    1. World Health Assembly Resolution on R&D for Neglected Diseases says:

      [...] William New for IP Watch. “World Health Assembly: Agreement Reached On Neglected Disease R&amp… [...]

    2. Panellists: Global Health Justice Needs Government Commitment, New Innovation Models | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      [...] recommendations of the CEWG were presented to the World Health Assembly in May (IPW, WHO, 25 May 2012) and member states have requested more time to discuss the recommendation on the global framework. [...]

    3. Technical Meeting Advances Ideas For WHO-Led R&D Financing Framework | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      [...] WHO member states will meet in Geneva on 26-28 November to try to agree on next steps in the CEWG process, as approved by the World Health Assembly last May (IPW, WHO, 25 May 2012). [...]

    4. EU Health Cooperation: Room For Improvement | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      [...] As such, how can these prospects match with reports that, during the 65th WHO World Health Assembly in Geneva last May, several European countries ran against and slowed down a WHO-backed proposal to negotiate a binding convention on financing R&D for neglected diseases? [see here and here] [...]

    5. WHO Members Meet This Week To Address Global Gaps In Medical R&D | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      [...] IP-Watch articles here, here and here. Related [...]

    6. Debate Erupts At WHO Over “Consensus” On Financing R&D For The Poor | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      [...] this market failure in recent years, and at the 2012 annual World Health Assembly set up (IPW, WHO, 25 May 2012) an open-ended meeting (attendable by all) of member states. That meeting took place in late [...]

    7. World Health Assembly Starts Next Week: R&D, NCDs, Pandemics Top Agenda | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      [...] http://www.ip-watch.org/2012/05/25/world-health-assembly-agreement-reached-on-neglected-disease-rd-p… [...]

    8. Inside Views: WHO Performance Undermined By Inadequate EU Collaboration | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      […] from the 65th WHO World Health Assembly (WHA), where several European countries ran against and slowed down a proposal to negotiate a binding convention on financing R&D for NDs, the EU still remained […]


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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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