Waking Up Governments for Research on Neglected Diseases

[Geneva – May 16, 2006 ]
The R&D Appeal launched in June 2005 by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), its founding partners, Oxfam, and the BIOS initiative, urges governments to take greater leadership in R&D on neglected diseases.

In just over 10 months, more than 5,000 scientists, policy-makers, industry and NGO members (including 19 Nobel laureates) have signed onto the Appeal. Next week, two resolutions that promote a needs-driven R&D agenda will be considered at the World Health Assembly – “A Global Framework on Essential Health Research & Development” submitted by Brazil and Kenya, and the report of the WHO Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health (CIPIH).

Guilherme Patriota, Representative of the Brazilian Ministry of External Relations, elaborated, “In the next few days, world governments have an opportunity to support essential health R&D through really innovative and modern non-proprietary mechanisms. We have begun to move in the right direction but it is essential that we develop better and new health tools to improve the long-term health both of the patients and of the developing countries.”

Both resolutions urge governments to support needs-driven research, set health R&D priorities, and promote innovation to develop and deliver much needed health tools adapted to the sick and neglected in developing countries. These tools are desperately needed: Chirac and Torreele show in their May 10, 2006, Lancet article that only 1.3% (21 out of 1,556) of the new drugs developed over the past 30 years were for neglected tropical diseases and tuberculosis, even though these diseases account for 12% of the global disease burden.

“Despite ostensible changes in the R&D landscape over the past 10 years, the situation for patients has not changed and the future is bleak,” said Dr Rowan Gillies, President of the MSF International Council. “We need new diagnostics and medicines today. There has been no leadership to address this health crisis thus far and unless decisive steps are taken, this disgraceful situation will only get worse.”

Similar in tone is the final report of the WHO’s Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health (CIPIH): among its recommendations is a new, sustainable framework that will enable other players like public-private product development partnerships to research and develop new health tools.

“The Appeal was launched with the idea that only greater government involvement can ultimately correct the fatal imbalance in the current drug development model,” remarked Dr. Bernard Pecoul . “For the very first time at the World Health Assembly, two resolutions that advocate extensive government support for a new global R&D framework, as was called for in the Appeal, will be considered. These resolutions represent a timely opportunity for world governments to take a leading role in defining priorities.”

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) is an independent, not-for-profit drug development initiative established in 2003 by five public-sector research organisations – Kenya Medical Research Institute, Indian Council of Medical Research, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation Brazil, Malaysian Ministry of Health, and France’s Institut Pasteur; and Médecins Sans Frontières. The UNICEF/ UNDP/World Bank/WHO’s Special Progra mme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) is a permanent observer to the initiative . With a current portfolio of 20 projects, DNDi aims to develop new, improved, and field-relevant drugs for neglected diseases, such as malaria, leishmaniasis, human African trypanosomiasis, and Chagas disease that afflict the very poor in developing countries. DNDi also raises awareness about the need for greater R&D for neglected diseases and strengthens existing research capacity in disease-endemic countries. For further information, please consult www.dndi.org.

The CIPIH Report (in 6 languages) is available online: http://www.who.int/intellectualproperty/documents/thereport

The R&D appeal was launched in June 2005 by DNDi and its founding partners, MSF, Oxfam UK , and BIOS Initiative.

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For more information, or to arrange an interview with Dr Bernard Pecoul, contact Ann-Marie SEVCSIK at amsevcsik@dndi.org, +1-646-258-8131 or +41 (0)79 814 9147)