Statement |

MSF intervention on R&D Financing & Coordination at 66th WHA

WHO 66th World Health Assembly Agenda item 17.2: Follow-up of the report of the Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development: Financing and Coordination (CEWG)

Intervention by Katy Athersuch, Médecins Sans Frontières

The central recommendation of the CEWG report was for Member States to start formal negotiations towards a global framework – an R&D Convention – that would strengthen coordination and financing of medical innovation and would define global norms to ensure the cost of R&D is de-linked from the price of products and thereby secure the widest possible access.

Médecins Sans Frontières (International) welcomed the analysis and recommendations of the CEWG. MSF field teams bear witness to the fact that the current innovation model is failing:

  • Gaps remain where commercial incentives are insufficient to encourage R&D:  we need vaccines that are needle-free or that do not have to be refrigerated, to reach the millions of children currently being missed; previously treatable diseases are becoming difficult to treat because of antibiotic resistance; there are no appropriate diagnostics or drugs for children with tuberculosis, and no tool to determine whether someone is cured of Chagas disease.
  • Products are too often priced out of reach. Newer vaccines are particularly expensive and threaten the sustainability of immunisation programmes.  New HIV or cancer drugs can cost hundreds of times more than average annual incomes.

This shows the necessity of developing an innovation model that is health needs-driven and results in medical innovation that is accessible and affordable to all.

MSF remains concerned by the lack of ambition in the operative part of the draft resolution, which is weak and lacks definition. Despite the clear recommendations of the CEWG report, the resolution could postpone WHO-level discussions on a global R&D Convention until 2016. There is a disconnect between the recognition of the scale and urgency of the problem and the fact that proposals for transformative change are again being postponed.

The draft resolution is minimalist, proposing just three concrete actions:
a) monitoring R&D through a global observatory;
b) setting up ‘demonstration projects’;
c) developing norms and standards for classification of health R&D, to systematically collect information.

These elements are important. It is critical, however, to ensure that they are designed and implemented in a way that builds on the conclusions of the CEWG report. This work should be guided by the principles of innovation with access, as outlined in the report. We urge Member States to show the political will, and ensure technical and financial resources are there to drive these proposals forward in a meaningful way.

This resolution is just the starting point. Although the medium-term framework of the GSPA is set to come to an end in 2015, much of its ambition remains unfulfilled. Member States need to look to the longer-term framework that will be needed to ensure affordable, needs-driven innovation. Meaningful progress on financing, coordination and the agreement of global norms must follow.

To the US proposal that has just been tabled. We must learn from previous mistakes in the appointment of technical experts as we saw with the first Expert working group. Using the good example of the CEWG, there should be a member state led process for the selection of experts to this group in order to ensure transparency. Thank you.