[October 23, 2006]
On 23 October, 2006, the Chair of the Board, the Executive Director and partners of Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), sent an open letter, which relates to the landmark World Health Organization (WHO) R&D Resolution 59.24, to all candidates for the WHO Director-General position.
Geneva, 23 October 2006
As co-promoters of the R&D Appeal launched in 2005 by Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative and its partners, 19 Nobel Laureates and now supported by over 7500 scientists and academics worldwide, we firmly believe that governments should play a pivotal leadership role in needs-driven R&D for neglected diseases.
The landmark R&D Resolution 59.24 was approved by the member states of the World Health Assembly one week after the late WHO Director General, Dr. Lee, received the R&D Appeal in May 2006. The R&D Appeal urges global public responsibility in:
Setting global health R&D priorities according to patient needs
Establishing better strategies to stimulate essential health R&D (for diagnostics, vaccines, and drugs)
Providing sustained financial support to essential health R&D
We wish to remind the 13 WHO Director General candidates that the WHO, in living up to its institutional mandate, now has the imperative to play a leading role in prioritizing and creating an environment more conducive to innovative medical research that addresses the essential needs of the poor.
Found in the WHA Resolution, this spirit remains true to the main recommendations of the Report of the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health (CIPIH) released on 3rd April 2006.
In response to a growing concern over the inadequacy of the current global system to support innovation in new medicines and essential health tools for neglected diseases, the WHA Resolution seeks to ensure that R&D efforts address the priority needs of patients living in resource-poor settings and often without access to essential medicines.
To achieve these objectives, the resolution aims to harness collaborative R&D initiatives involving governments and to ensure that progress in basic science and biomedicine is translated into improved, safe, and affordable health products – drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics.
The WHO has been given a two-year time frame in which to create a more favourable environment for needs-driven R&D. We firmly believe that, by displaying the same boldness it showed in adopting the Essential Drugs policies in the 1970s, the WHO can impose its will and influence by swiftly acting on the tenets set by the WHA Resolution.
Through philanthropic commitments made in recent years, many initiatives have been established to accelerate innovation for neglected diseases that respond to patients needs. But to ensure a long-term and sustainable response, the WHO needs to recapture its central institutional role on health and to exercise that role fully by defining needs, assessing priorities, and ensuring that other institutions and actors are held accountable in terms of their health policies and programs.
We sincerely hope the next leader of WHO will have the strength and clarity of purpose to undertake his role as director of the organization responsible for global public health.
Yves Champey Bernard Pecoul
President of the board, DNDi Executive Director, DNDi