E-DRUG: MSF statement on launch of G-FINDER report on R&D
Please find below the statement by Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer, director
of the MSF Access Campaign, issued for the launch of the G-FINDER report
on neglected disease R&D.
Statement by Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer,
Director of the Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, Medecins Sans
In response to the publication of the G-FINDER report
London, 4th February 2009
- The G-FINDER report provides welcome new data on how R&D funding is
currently being allocated.
- MSF has been calling for medical R&D to be steered according to real
medical needs, so that the development of urgently-needed tools, such as a
tuberculosis diagnostic test, are prioritised. The G-FINDER report
suggests a methodology to determine how R&D should be prioritised
according to potential health impacts. As such it provides a foundation
for future work in order to ensure that R&D is driven by medical needs.
But further work needs to be done to get behind top line figures and
identify the needs and priorities within disease areas.
- The G-FINDER report does not estimate the total funding needs. It thus
fails to show the extent to which diseases are under-funded. All areas are
under-funded, and it would be a mistake to start spreading the funds even
thinner across more diseases. We need to look at how much is needed, not
just how much is being spent.
- Nor does the G-FINDER report look at how R&D funds should be disbursed.
New approaches are necessary. We need to challenge existing thinking and
broaden the field of researchers working on neglected disease research -
R&D needs will not be met just by giving more money to PDPs. Alternative
funding mechanisms are needed. Push funding through grants need boosting,
but pull funding also needs to be rolled out and in a way that ensures
access to products that answer medical needs. Mechanisms that separate
the costs of R&D from the prices of the developed products, such as recent
proposals for prize funds, have a crucial role to play.
- The G-FINDER report confirms MSF analysis showing that European
countries are not paying their fair share. Take tuberculosis research -
how can it be that the contributions of the European Commission added to
the EU member states are dwarfed by the US, only accounting for around 30%
of what the US is investing? The G-FINDER comes as a confirmation to
recent MSF analysis (1) showing that Europeans are paying pitifully low
amounts. In 2008, MSF called on the EC to increase its contribution to TB
five fold. Their responsibility is clear: countries right on Europe's
doorstep - even within the EU - are struggling against resistant strains
of TB. Tuberculosis is knocking loudly on the door, and the research
pipeline is desperately insufficient, but the European Commission is
playing deaf. This is all the more shocking given that the EC has already
allocated over 8 billion euros to health research for 2007-2013. (2) The
money is there, but neglected diseases remain neglected.
- The G-FINDER report does not address the important question of access to
any developed product. Even if research does take place, the stark reality
is that access to the fruits of innovation is far from a given because it
depends on pricing or registration policies pursued. A pneumoccocal
vaccine able to dramatically reduce the number of children dying, for
example, was approved in 2000 by the U.S. FDA. Over nine years later, the
vaccine remains expensive, is marketed in a highly impracticable form and
is not available in the least developed countries where it could have made
the biggest difference in reducing unnecessary death. Innovation is
useless if people cannot benefit from the fruits of it.
- The G-FINDER report comes at an important time. The World Health
Organization is implementing a Global Strategy and Plan of Action to
'secure an enhanced and sustainable basis for needs-driven, essential
health research and development relevant to diseases that
disproportionately affect developing countries, proposing clear objectives
and priorities for research and development, and estimating funding needs
in this area.' (3) It is important that before any conclusions of the
report are adopted, the WHO and countries review its conclusions and
assess whether they match their needs and priorities.
(1) Cough up for TB! The Underfunding of Research for Tuberculosis and
Other Neglected Diseases by (1) the European Commission and (2) Germany.
MSF. Geneva 2008.
(2) Figures for Framework Programme on Research and Development 7,
including the Cooperation Programme Health budget (€6.1 bn) and the
Innovative Medicines Initiative (€2 bn). This is an underestimate as it
excludes the funds allocated to the European Research Council (€7.5 bn),
the data for which is not disaggregated.
See Cough up for TB! p9-10
(3) World Health Assembly Resolution 59.24, May 2006. Public health,
innovation, essential health research and intellectual property rights:
towards a global strategy and plan of action
The G-FINDER itself can be downloaded here:
Senior Communications Officer
Medecins Sans Frontieres - Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines
+33 1 40 21 2837
+33 6 13 99 7751 (mobile)