A Growing Momentum:
Public support crucial to essential health R&D
In May this year, the World Health Assembly (WHA) will discuss the Kenya and Brazil Resolution for a Global Framework for Essential Health R&D, as well as the WHO-commissioned report from the Commission on Intellectual Property, Innovation and Public Health (CIPIH). The resolution calls for government leadership to set global health priorities, fund R&D for neglected diseases, increase access to knowledge, and create an enabling environment for health R&D, whereas the CIPIH report reiterates the moral imperative for governments to play a major role in promoting innovation adapted to the needs of sick and neglected patients.

The discussion will send yet another message to all governments that public support is an absolute necessity if the issue of neglected diseases R&D is to truly change in the years to come. Today, the situation is still deplorable – of the 1556 new drugs marketed from 1975-2004, only 21 (just over 1%) were for tropical diseases and tuberculosis.

Awareness of the situation is growing, as is the momentum to urge governments to prioritise R&D for neglected diseases.

For example, at the end of 2004, a Dutch Government commissioned report ‘Priority Medicines for Europe and the World’ recommended how research and innovation can best address global health needs and emerging threats. In its wake, DNDi and partners launched an appeal in June 2005 urging governments to boost essential R&D for neglected diseases. The following month, the G8 made a pledge to increase R&D for malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and the most neglected diseases, and then in September the European Parliament adopted a resolution to support major and neglected disease research. More recently, in April 2006, the Global Forum for Health Research Report, Monitoring Financial Flows for Health Research 2005: Behind the global numbers, advocated a change in the persistent divergence between the use of research resources and the burden of disease affecting less developed countries.

These commendable ideas and commitments to R&D for neglected diseases are worthless unless translated into a global action plan that incorporates the recommendations of both the Brazil and Kenya submission as well as the CIPIH report. This would secure continuation of the efforts in drug R&D undertaken by DNDi and its fellow PDPs.

In the past 5 years the landscape for neglected diseases research has started to change, but without sustained government support these changes will begin to falter. The only government to live up to its promises is the UK, that recently granted £17.5 million for neglected disease drug R&D. Political action and leadership like this is needed from all countries, but most other governments are still caught up in a bureaucratic tangle.

DNDi hopes the world’s health ministers at the WHA recognize and vote for this growing movement urging governments to support essential health R&D.

Bernard Pecoul
Published by Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative - 1 Place St Gervais 1201 Geneva Switzerland
Editor: Jaya Banerji - Tel: +41 22 906 9230 - Fax: +41 22 906 9231 - www.dndi.org