International Gathering of Scientific, Medical, and Policy Experts Discuss how R&D Can Better Serve Developing Countries
Penang, 6 February 2004 — An international group of experts concerned with the failings of the existing system of conducting research and development (R&D) in health, is meeting for two days in Penang to discuss ways to improve the system. The meeting is being jointly organized by the National Centre for Drug Research, Universiti Sains Malaysia and the international humanitarian medical organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).
The MSF Neglected Diseases Group is a multidisciplinary network of experts from developing and industrialised countries who share their ideas, analyses and views on ways to promote the development of medical innovations adapted to the needs of neglected patients, and to ensure access to new and existing health tools. The group includes representatives from academia, the scientific research community, governments (including drug regulatory agencies, public research institutions, and policymakers), intergovernmental organisations, the pharmaceutical industry, non-governmental organizations and other members of civil society.
The failings of the R&D system are clearly reflected in the shortage of new drugs developed for the diseases that most heavily impact populations in developing countries: out of 1393 new drugs approved between 1975 and 1999, just over 1% were specifically developed for tropical diseases and tuberculosis. It is estimated that only 5% of total R&D funds are being spent on the health problems of 93% of the world’s population.
The NDG was launched in 1999 as part of the MSF Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, and it has conducted extensive analyses that address the lack of drug R&D for neglected diseases, a series of disease-specific proposed research agendas, an analysis of drug innovation over the last 25 years, and a set of concrete policy recommendations.