Statement |

MSF at WHO's Open-Ended Meeting on CEWG - Agenda Item 5 (k)

MSF at WHO's Open-Ended Meeting on CEWG - Agenda Item 5 (k): Discussion on future financing of health research and development

Speaker: Katy Athersuch

At the 68th World Health Assembly, resolution 66.22 requested the Director-General to convene an open-ended meeting of Member States prior to the 69th World Health Assembly, in order to assess progress and continue discussions of the Consultative Expert Working Group (CEWG) on the remaining issues in relation to monitoring, coordination and financing for health research and development. The three-day meeting takes place from 2nd to 4th May 2016 at WHO Headquarters.

Agenda Item 5 (k) : Discussion on future financing of health research and development

We support moving forward with a Fund as an important step to coordinate R&D funding. However, it is essential that the scope of the proposed fund should ‘join the dots’ so that all areas of market failure are covered, whether they are classified as type I, II or III diseases. Therefore, the fund must cover emerging infectious diseases such as Ebola and others included in the Global R&D blueprint, the development of new antibiotics and other priority areas beyond this.  

The proposed fund should have a clear mandate that ensures that all calls for proposals make clear that successful applications will implement the innovation for access principles formulated in the CEWG report and summarized in WHA 66.22 – ‘affordability, effectiveness, efficiency and equity,’ including ‘de-linkage of the cost of research and development from the price of health products.’ This should apply to the management of intellectual property.  

The extent to which such a fund could meet ‘the need for a sustainable financial mechanism for health research and development’ depends on its governance and funding structures. We urge Member States to consider mandatory contribution models to the fund, as well as innovative financing mechanisms. We are concerned that the current voluntary contribution models proposed will be inadequate to ensure sustainability. The CEWG includes a range of recommendations which can be taken into consideration, including taxes and other measures. Member States should consider providing a mandate to existing innovative financing instruments that could contribute a fixed amount of funding to the Pooled Fund.  

We heard the point made about the crowded landscape and the role of the Gates Foundation, but we believe there is an important role for governments to take their responsibility to set priorities in R&D. We cannot outsource this responsibility to private, philanthropic organisations.

The size of the R&D Fund should allow significant investments across a range of R&D projects, as well as an opportunity for the Fund to finance specific R&D projects end-to-end, especially those carried out by product development partnerships or other consortiums that seek to fully implement the principles of the CEWG.  

However, we also want to stress that the question of whether or not Member States are ready to take a decision on a Fund, should not be used as a basis for limiting discussions on the follow up to implement the CEWG report recommendations. We would note that the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control first started with agreeing norms and standards before moving to discussions of financing.