World Health Assembly Adopts Milestone R&D Resolution27/05/2006 by Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen for 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 World Health Assembly today agreed to establish an intergovernmental group to develop a global plan on research and development for diseases predominantly affecting developing countries. The agreement reflects a bridging of significant gaps between parties on the issue a few weeks ago.The resolution was adopted in 90 seconds with no debate, a developed country official said. Sources gave credit to developing countries, in particular Kenya, as well as the cooperative spirit of the United States for the agreement.The adopted resolution was based on a working paper (A59/A/Conf. Paper No. 8) which was agreed to on 26 May by a technical group set up at the 22-27 May World Health Assembly. The paper is entitled: “Public health, innovation, essential health research and intellectual property rights: towards a global strategy and plan of action.”The final resolution combines two previous draft resolutions: One based on a Brazil and Kenya suggestion for a global framework on essential health research and development (EB117 R13), and another draft resolution based on the recommendations in a report from the World Health Organization Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health (CIPIH). Its main suggestion was the setting up of a global plan of action, derived from its report published in April (IPW, Public Health, 3 April 2006).Today’s adopted resolution establishes an intergovernmental working group open to all member states to “draw up a global strategy and plan of action in order to provide a medium-term framework based on the recommendations of the commission.” This is similar to wording in the CIPIH report.It further suggests that the strategy and plan of action should secure “an enhanced and sustainable basis for needs-driven, essential health research and development relevant to diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries.” Priorities and funding needs also should be identified, it states.The final resolution does not contain language on it being “legally binding” as proposed in the original draft of Brazil and Kenya.The working group is to report to the 60th World Health Assembly, to be held in one year from now, with the final plan completed by the 61st assembly. The resolution also invites representatives from non-governmental and intergovernmental organisations and others to act as observers of the working group, according to the paper.Reactions PositiveOne developed country official who participated in the technical group was pleased afterward at the resolution’s passage. “We are glad we could agree on this working group and its mandate” and that it will be “open to observers and experts,” the official said. The official added the hope that the resolution would bring quick results.The official also said that the “medium-term” phrase was a compromise for the word “framework” which was carried forward from the draft resolution from Brazil and Kenya, and which all along has been a very controversial issue. Some officials had argued in the technical working group that the word “framework” was a disguise for a “treaty” but Kenya had stressed that by framework it did indeed mean framework, the official said.A Kenyan official told Intellectual Property Watch that “we think we have achieved something” and that although it was not the best, the resolution is a “very good beginning.” “It was crucial that we managed to find each other,” the official said, and that all countries now “stand together.”The Kenyan official said that later when it comes to implementation it would become clear which countries are serious about the resolution. He added that the developing countries had fought to keep in the word “framework.”The Kenyan official commended the Swiss chair, saying that he had “captured people’s fears and aspirations.” In general there had been a “huge participation” among the delegates in the technical group. The chair was Gaudenz Silberschmidt of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health.Some non-governmental participants have taken issue with the position of the European Commission on the resolutions, which they saw as too close to the position of the pharmaceutical industry (IPW, Public Health, 25 May 2006). A Commission representative told Intellectual Property Watch that he was not aware of undue influence by industry, but questions appear to remain.James Love of the Consumer Project on Technology, which was an early promoter of the idea, welcomed the outcome, giving special credit to Kenya and Brazil but also the United States.He said Brazil and Kenya had been “so strong in the negotiations” and showed such a devotion to the cause that it had “made everybody want it to work.”He said that the issue of intellectual property had been a “hot potato” particularly for the United States but the agreement means that there now is a “new paradigm for trade.”Love said that since January, the United States had showed support for the idea and had understood that the draft resolution on R&D was not an attack on the United States, which is the largest funder of R&D. It is in the US national interest that other countries participate more in research and development, Love said.Médecins Sans Frontières also welcomed what it called a “breakthrough” agreement. “For the first time, we’re starting to see action that begins to mirror the magnitude of the problems and needs that we witness everyday in our field programmes,” Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer, director of R&D at MSF’s Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, said in a statement. “This is a crucial first step that will help put in place new ways of stimulating R&D for health problems that so far industry has ignored”Representatives of the pharmaceutical industry were unavailable for comment at press time.Share 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)Related"World Health Assembly Adopts Milestone R&D Resolution" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.