University Students Energise Global Campaign For Medical R&D Agreement05/01/2016 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 2 CommentsShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service, and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.The force of hundreds of students worldwide has gathered behind an international effort urging governments to promote research and development in a way that does not result in high-priced medicines. The initiative led by Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) seeks to address the longstanding gap in affordable medicines and puts the focus on the World Health Organization, whose members are currently working on this issue. UAEM, the international student organisation, has turned its attention to narrowing the gap in access to affordable medicines, especially those affecting developing countries, by calling for a new model for delinking the cost of R&D from prices of medical products.UAEM Europe conference, Basel, 2014Some 50 academics and scientists, including two Nobel laureates, have signed a letter, available here (with list of signatories), calling on WHO member states to “negotiate a much overdue global research and development (R&D) agreement to ensure innovation and access to affordable vaccines, medicines and life-saving technologies for all.”The WHO has been working on this issue for years, most recently through the Consultative Working Group on Research and Development: Financing and Coordination (CEWG), but is expected to make a decision this spring.A new report, EB138/39, has been issued by the WHO director general on the CEWG, and is available here [pdf]. The issue is on the agenda [pdf] of the 25-30 January annual meeting of the WHO Executive Board. All documents for the Executive Board meeting are available here. UAEM has been closely tracking the WHO process.According to the director general’s CEWG report, before the next annual World Health Assembly in May, the WHO must hold an “open-ended” meeting of member states “to assess progress and continue discussions on the remaining issues in relation to monitoring, coordination and financing for health research and development.” This includes taking into account any analyses and the CEWG report.The open-ended meeting was proposed in the report for 7-9 March (note: Intellectual Property Watch is seeking confirmation from WHO on the date, as 21-22 March is the date given in the academics’ letter).In a related development, in January a “global observatory” on health R&D is expected to launch at WHO. Furthermore, WHO member states approved six “demonstration projects” related to alternative funding models for R&D, which are now slowly progressing (see the director general’s report for more details).Letter from Academics UAEM FreiburgIn their open letter, the academics point to the problem that while research funds flow to lifestyle drugs and other priorities of developed countries (with consumers who can pay), other diseases are neglected by the current model and could be addressed through an international agreement, they say.“A different system, based on principles of open access, open knowledge, open sharing and fair price, as well as incentives and mechanisms to encourage research and development of essential medicines according to needs of people worldwide, is possible,” the academics say. “There are mechanisms being used that show great potential including prize funds, patent pools, and open collaborative approaches. However, the initiatives are fragmented and lack coherence.”“A global agreement for an equitable biomedical R&D system can provide a much needed structure,” they say. “It can provide guiding principles which can move us to a system that incentivizes research and technology transfer based on global health needs and recognizes the human right to health.”UAEM CampaignProf. Per Kallestrup (Aarhus University) receiving the Access to Medicines prize for his commitment to research aimed at addressing global health needs and access to healthcareUAEM, which has traditionally focused on the university licensing practices of the outcomes of university research in the medical field – mainly aiming to promote access and affordability of medicines developed after university research, has turned its focus to updating the patent-oriented model for incentivizing medical R&D.“On the whole, patent monopolies have proven to be the wrong incentive for research and development of medical products to meet global health needs,” the students said in a background document. “This is the reason why UAEM has been calling for a new R&D model to meet global health needs that puts patients over profits. De-linking the price of drugs from their R&D costs in order to de-link the main incentive for their production from a market base and bring it back to public interest.”This is the first global campaign for UAEM. Merith Basey, UAEM executive director, North America, said it was a student-led decision to push for a unifying global campaign that would provide a platform for all global UAEM chapters to potentially work towards a time-bound common goal.The campaign was decided upon at the pilot Global Leadership Annual Meeting of UAEM in May 2015. It was launched in November with a series of activities, as announced here. A UAEM video on the campaign is here. The group is targeting politicians and delegates in UAEM-populated countries, and will have a presence at the WHO Executive Board meeting in January and the WHA in May.Julia Montaña Lopez, a European coordinator for UAEM, said that “with the tragic Ebola crisis representing a ‘defining moment’ in the global health challenges of our era, the coming year could witness a crucial turning point: during the WHO Open-Ended meeting in March and subsequent WHA in May 2016, the global community will decide whether to systematically address the roots of the access and innovation crises in global health -through opening the negotiations of a legally-binding R&D Agreement-, or to instead continue intervening a posteriori mounting a myriad of ad hoc efforts that address the tragic symptoms, but not the causes, of these crises and thus perpetuating their neglect.”“The R&D Agreement is an international, legally-binding and key tool towards a world where development of medicines is aimed at addressing the needs of patients worldwide, rather than creating revenue,” Montaña Lopez said. “Even if we are unsuccessful in the re-opening negotiations of the R&D Agreement by the WHO in 2016, the heart and strength of our campaign reside in fuelling a global academic discussion and movement towards fairer R&D practices that put global health needs at the forefront of priorities.”Jennifer Nguyen, UAEM North American Coordinating Committee member, said: “We have an access and innovation problem: Our current biomedical research and development system prioritizes profits over global health needs. Each year, at least 10 million people die because treatments are too expensive.”UAEM is urging WHO member states to negotiate a global R&D agreement, as we urgently need a system that prioritizes patients over profits,” she said. “The upcoming WHO open-ended meeting on this issue marks a critical time to make change. Discussions on this have been dragging on for over a decade.”A global R&D agreement can encourage investment in innovative medicines based on public health needs not profits, promote the use of mechanisms to finance research that do not rely on patents and high prices, and facilitate knowledge sharing between researchers for global coordination and efficiency,” Nguyen added. “We need a global R&D agreement for a coherent biomedical R&D system that addresses the needs of the world’s patients, not profits, and increases access to medicines for all.” Image Credits: UAEMShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)RelatedWilliam New may be reached at email@example.com."University Students Energise Global Campaign For Medical R&D Agreement" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.