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At the end of May 2016 governments from around the world met at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, and agreed some concrete steps forward in achieving a fairer system for research and development (R&D) of medicines.
Although we have by no means got as far as we need to yet, there is certainly some promising language, and things are moving in the right direction. You can read the full Resolution document here, or see our summary below.
The Assembly agreed a Resolution which champions a system of health R&D based on need, not profit. The World Health Organisation (WHO) will now set up an Expert Committee on Health R&D to provide advice on the prioritisation of health research and development. They will also help set up a Global Observatory on Health Research and Development to collect data and identify gaps in research.
Plans to establish sustainable financing
It’s worrying that governments didn’t agree a funding model to finance this work, but there are plans to work out a sustainable way to do this. The WHO must now come up with a proposal for a voluntary pooled fund, which will be finalised at next year’s WHA. Member states have been asked to support its development and ensure its sustainability.
Supporting access to medicines
The resolution states the WHO must develop a plan to support access to medicines, and ensure R&D doesn’t lead to high prices. The WHO must develop a plan for how the Observatory, the Expert Advisory group and the pooled fund will be connected and based on the principles of affordability, effectiveness, efficiency and equity. These principles must also be applied across all R&D work done by the WHO.
Unfortunately, one of our key asks for the establishment of a global R&D agreement was not on the table. However, there are now plans for another open-ended meeting on R&D reform ahead of next year’s WHA. This gives us the space and the time to re-double our efforts in calling for more radical R&D reform in the future.
More immediately, the UN’s High Level Panel on Access to Medicines is due to release their report this summer. Campaigners have high hopes for an ambitious vision to be set out, recognising access to medicines as a human rights issue that affects us all, and paving the way for radical change in the months and years ahead.
We need your support to keep the pressure on governments, and ensure these proposals get the funding and commitment needed to make them a reality.