Letter |

MSF open letter from scientists to WHO Executive Board Members

Sign-on Letter to ask World Health Organization Executive Board members to support the resolution on a “Global Framework on Essential Health Research and Development” proposed by the Republic of Kenya at the January 2006 meeting.

Open Letter to the WHO Executive Board

Dear Members of the WHO Executive Board:

As scientists, many of whom work in fields connected with biomedicine, we are writing to express our support for the resolution submitted by the Republic of Kenya at the 117th meeting of the WHO Executive Board on January 23rd 2006. 

Although we have very varied scientific backgrounds, from basic research to specific clinical research, we are all deeply concerned with deficiencies in the way that biomedical research science is supported and translated into treatments that improve health outcomes around the world. In the research setting we see many possibilities to develop drugs to treat neglected diseases, but a lack of sustainable support for the R&D process. In the clinical setting we see the problem of affordable drugs to a greater or lesser extent in health care systems in all countries.

At a time of huge progress in basic research science and more money being spent on biomedical R&D than ever, we are deeply concerned about the ability of existing mechanisms to translate this into a global improvement in public health. We have all felt the impact and promise of the free availability of genome sequence data, notably from the human genome project. At the same time we see research activities increasingly complicated by legal restrictions, such as intellectual property rights, which can interfere with free data exchange and can limit biomedical research progress. We do not see a good balance between medical need and resource allocation in the existing system to support R&D. For example, there is less focus on neglected diseases, vaccines or replacement antibiotics than their potential impact on global health outcomes would justify.

The resolution appears to address all of these issues in a balanced way. For example, it does not seek to eliminate the use of patents to incentivise commercial innovation, but instead allows other incentive systems to be used along side and considered under trade rules. It also proposes long term solutions to sustainable funding, prioritisation and access issues.

We call upon the Executive Board to support this important and timely resolution.