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Increase in drug development for killer diseases is not enough

A recent report shows that drug development for killer diseases such as HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria, Chagas and Sleeping Sickness has increased in recent years. This is despite the fact that these diseases mainly affect the poor in developing countries and development of treatments is inhibitive due to lack of economic demand.

Researchers argue that the rate of development of drugs (and of some vaccines and diagnostics) would increase if more incentives were created using patent rights and providing guarantees to purchase drugs for the poor as they are developed.

The report (The New Landscape of Neglected Disease Drug Development) by Mary Moran and colleagues at the Pharmaceutical Research and Development Policy Group, The George Institute, argues that drugs for neglected diseases are increasingly being developed partly due to the use of public-private partnership (PPPs) mechanisms that spread the financial and organisational risk of product development. Anne-Laure Ropars, from the George Institute will be discussing the rise of drug development for neglected diseases and the role of PPPs at a major international conference, organised by the ESRC Innogen Centre to be held in London on 5-6 September 2006.

Steven Matlin, Executive Director of the Global Forum for Health Research, also speaking at the conference, does not believe that the increases in development of health products for neglected diseases (drugs, vaccines and diagnostics) is simply due to the rise of PPPs. Matlin also stresses the rise of a group of ‘innovating developing countries’ (IDCs) including Brazil, China, India and South Africa. He argues that these countries have “growing national capacity for high-quality manufacturing to convert the inventions into health products for both domestic and international markets.”

Matlin does acknowledge the challenges faced by both PPPs and IDCs in developing health products for neglected diseases. The third speaker in this conference session, Robert Eiss, Executive Director of the Centre for the Management of Intellectual Property in Health Research, tackles these challenges in more depth. Eiss believes that correct market incentives and, in particular, appropriate intellectual property management are lacking. Eiss states that there is a “need to develop and promote forms of intellectual property management and technology transfer practice that help ensure access for the poor through the strategic use of such tools as price tiering and market segmentation, and the engagement of R&D and manufacturing capacities in countries where the targeted disease is endemic.”

Ropars, Matlin and Eiss will speak about drugs for neglected diseases during the session ‘Health Partnerships and Action” to be held at the ESRC Innogen conference on Wednesday 6th September 2006 at 14.00hrs.

Annika Howard | alfa
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