Campaigners on Saturday welcomed a World Health Organization pledge to tackle research and funding gaps concerning some of the developing world’s biggest killer diseases.
Member countries are expected to hold talks later this year on an expert group’s recommendations that a globally binding convention is needed to address neglected tropical diseases (NTD), tuberculosis and others currently overlooked by the research industry.
It follows a meeting of the WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly, in Geneva where members adopted a resolution calling on director general Margaret Chan to set up the meeting.
The document, the result of three-day negotiations, meanwhile urges governments and the private sector to boost investment in health research for diseases which disproportionately affect the developing world.
“These were extremely tough negotiations with the US, the EU — led by France — and Japan making every effort to block progress on what health experts agree should be the way forward to meet the medical needs of people in developing countries,” said Michelle Childs from Medecins Sans Frontieres.
“While there’s no doubt we are disappointed that there was not an immediate decision to move towards a research and development convention, countries have agreed to a formal process for considering the report’s recommendations and will bring these discussions back to the WHO in January,” said the policy director for medical charity’s access campaign.
The WHO-appointed group said in a report published last month that public investment in health research was currently dominated by wealthy countries and their own needs.
The panel recommended a “global binding instrument” to help developing countries access the drugs and technologies they require and suggested member states commit 0.01 percent of their GDP to fund the work.
In a draft resolution submitted to the WHA, Kenya urged the immediate set-up of a negotiating body to develop a convention based on the group’s recommendations.
This was countered by a document from the US, Japan and others supporting more informal consultations.
After about 15 hours of talks the agreed resolution requested WHO chief Margaret Chan “hold an open-ended member states meeting in order to analyse the report and the feasibility of the recommendations.”
The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) said it hopes that national and regional-level talks also requested in the resolution will pave the way for a global response.