Chan Urges Innovation, Defends WHO Flu Response As New Group Approved 18/05/2010 by Kaitlin Mara for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (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)World Health Organization Director General Margaret Chan opened the annual World Health Assembly today with a welcome of the transparency in the “most closely watched pandemic in history,” and how the drive to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals would unleash a “host of innovations for improving health, especially among the poorest,” adding a call for vaccines as one of the “best life-saving buys on offer.” And an open-ended working group comprised of member states was agreed to be tasked with finalising outstanding areas of disagreement on intellectual property and on a standard material transfer agreement for the exchange of materials related to pandemic influenza preparedness, including viruses and benefits. This was an expected outcome after a working group met last week to discuss the issue (IPW, WHO, 14 May 2010). The report of that 10-12 May meeting is available here [pdf]. Meanwhile, the WHO programme on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property has published the results of a study detailing which of countries have integrated flexibilities in their intellectual property laws to allow for public health promotion and related innovation. This includes countries that have conditions necessary to grant compulsory licences. The WHA is meeting from 17-21 May. Preparatory meetings on select topics were held last week (IPW, WHO, 14 May 2010). Chan’s Speech Meeting the Millennium Development Goals is not about national averages, but reaching the poorest and most out of reach. “If we miss the poor, we miss the point,” she said. “Increased investment for health development is working,” she said, adding “some 670” million people had been reached “with preventative chemotherapy” for a neglected tropical disease by the end of 2008. But health systems are making up for past failures, Chan said.”For decades, we have collectively failed to invest adequately in basic health systems, infrastructures, training of staff, information systems, regulatory capacity, and systems for social protection.” She then hailed the “host of innovations for improving health,” including the purchasing mechanisms the GAVI Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and UNITAID (which is in the process of creating a patent pool to facilitate cheaper, easier licensing of technologies relevant to diseases affecting the poor). She also praised the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has made a “most welcome” commitment to developing needed vaccines by pledging US$10 billion over the next 10 years, and which plans to work with the WHO, which typically has limited funding. But on the recent H1N1 (or “swine flu”) influenza outbreak, the world was “just plain lucky” since the virus did not become more lethal and resistance to treatment was rare, Chan said. With an apparent acknowledgement of problems in handling the pandemic, she said the WHO “welcomes” the scrutiny and review that the “most closely watched and carefully scrutinised pandemic in history” had received (IPW, WHO, 15 April 2010). New Intellectual Property Study on WHO Website Just in time for the World Health Assembly, PHI released new information related to the WHO Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property, which was approved in 2008 and is now in its implementation phase. The study focussed on three flexibilities: grounds and conditions that can be used for compulsory licensing; exhaustion of rights and the allowance of parallel importation; and use of an extended transition period for least developed countries that allows a delay until 2016 to implement the World Trade Organization Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). More details on the study methodology are available here. Data gathered so far is available here and involved examination of 116 national legislations and three regional legislations – the Gulf Cooperation Council, the African Intellectual Property Organization (francophone African countries) and the Andean Community legislation. The study based much of its current data on two papers – one by the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Committee on Development and Intellectual Property on patent flexibilities, available here, and one by Sisule Musungu, formerly of the South Centre of think tank IQsensato (written when he worked for the South Centre) and Cecilia Oh, formerly of the World Health Organization, available here, according to its methodology page. There are four indicators in the global strategy for monitoring the “application and management of intellectual property to contribute to innovation and promote public health.” These include: the number of countries with capacity-building initiatives to manage and apply IP rights for public health, the number of countries promoting such efforts in developing countries, the number of countries integrating flexibilities for protection of public health as allowed under TRIPS, and the number and types of initiatives between secretariats and governing bodies of relevant regional and international groups on coordinating IP and public health. These indicators come from a May 2009 report by the WHO secretariat, available here [pdf]. This study is the first of these indicators to be explored and publicised, and is being hosted on the in-progress website dedicated to monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the global strategy, which was launched last week (IPW, WHO, 11 May 2010). 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