Statement |

70th World Health Assembly Intervention, Agenda Item 13.4

Evaluation and review of the global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property (GSPOA)

Speaker: Katy Athersuch

Almost nine years after the adoption of the historic GSPOA, the evaluation merely restates the problem statement identified clearly in the Report of the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health: “current market mechanisms and publicly-funded research result in far too little investment in R&D for diseases that mainly affect lower-middle-income and low-income countries.”

For decades Médecins Sans Frontières’ teams and the people with whom we work have felt the consequences of this. When we plan our vaccination campaigns to accommodate onerous cold chain requirements, and when we are forced to provide old treatments with painful side effects, it is the policies, not the science that have failed us.

Member States, under leadership of WHO, must act now with coordinated efforts to meet the GSPOA aims: “to promote new thinking on innovation and access to medicines and…provide a medium-term framework for securing an enhanced and sustainable basis for needs-driven essential health research and development relevant to diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries…”

Regrettably, the evaluation is of limited use as it neglects key elements of the Strategy, and includes recommendations that in places seem at odds with the conclusions.

We are concerned that no mention is made of element 2.3(c), which mandated WHO and other stakeholders to discuss “the utility of possible instruments or mechanisms for essential health and biomedical research and development, including, inter alia, an essential health and biomedical research and development treaty.”

Given the evaluation’s conclusion on the role of market mechanisms and publicly-funded R&D, the recommendation that Member States simply ensure that “health R&D at national and sub-national level is prioritized,” is at best vague and at worst deliberately obscure.

Unfortunately, due to these limitations the evaluation does not provide a sound basis for informing the overall programme review planned for 2017.

Briefing document: Medical Research and Development

A full list of briefing documents and interventions for the 70th WHA can be found here.