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AVAC Report Calls For Greater Access To Combination Prevention Strategies, Protection Of Research Funding

AVAC: Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention on Tuesday “released its annual report that calls for an ambitious pace of funding, implementation, and research,” VOA News reports, noting the report, titled “Achieving the End: One Year and Counting,” “calls for a three-part agenda for ending AIDS: Deliver, Demonstrate, and Develop” (DeCapua, 11/27). The report’s recommendations “address urgent, unresolved challenges that threaten the delivery of powerful new HIV prevention methods that could help dramatically reduce the 2.5 million new HIV infections that occur worldwide every year,” an AVAC press release states, continuing, “They include critical actions to speed access to HIV treatment, voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and to safeguard vital new research on vaccines, microbicides, other HIV prevention options and a cure.” According to the press release, AVAC Executive Director Mitchell Warren said, “Right now, the world isn’t moving as fast as it should be to begin ending the epidemic. There is still time to get back on a winning pace but only with focused, aggressive action now. This can be the year that HIV prevention begins to achieve its potential — in fact, it has to be” (11/27).

Recognizing Pharmaceutical Philanthropy’s Role In Fighting NTDs

“In October 1987, Roy Vagelos, then the chief executive of [pharmaceutical company] Merck, launched the largest pharmaco-philanthropic venture ever,” William Foege, an epidemiologist and former director of the CDC, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece highlighting the company’s efforts to combat onchocerciasis in the developing world through the free distribution of its drug Mectizan. Initially developed to protect dogs against heartworms, Merck found a human version of the drug “could inhibit the microfilaria of onchocerciasis for a year with a single dose,” Foege continues, adding, “Merck said that it would supply the drug as long as it was needed. Extended surveillance has shown this to be one of the safest drugs ever developed.”

Experimental Flu Vaccine Technique Could Reduce Time Needed To Develop New Shots For Humans

“An experimental vaccine based on a molecule related to DNA protects animals against influenza and may one day offer an ultra-rapid way to develop new shots for humans, German scientists reported on Sunday,” Reuters reports (Hirschler, 11/25). “In a first for any infectious disease, a vaccine against flu has been made out of messenger RNA (mRNA) — the genetic material that controls the production of proteins,” New Scientist writes, adding, “Unlike its predecessors, the new vaccine may work for life, and it may be possible to manufacture it quickly enough to stop a pandemic” (Mackenzie, 11/25).

Wall Street Journal Reports On Challenges Of Fighting Multi-Drug Resistant TB In India

“More than one-quarter of people diagnosed with tuberculosis [TB] at a clinic in India’s largest city of 18 million have a strain that doesn’t respond to the main treatment against the disease, according to preliminary data from a new diagnostic being tested,” the Wall Street Journal reports. The newspaper obtained “preliminary and not peer reviewed” data from TB clinics in Mumbai, and Puneet Dewan with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation TB program in India “said the WHO and Indian authorities are taking the data seriously because it appears to confirm other studies in recent years of similarly high rates of multi-drug-resistance, in which patients don’t respond to the two most powerful TB medicines.” According to the newspaper, “The WHO and India currently estimate India has about 100,000 of the 650,000 people in the world with multi-drug-resistance” (Anand/McKay, 11/23).

WHO Member States Must Develop, Adopt Treaty To Combat Substandard, Fake Medicines

“This week delegates from about 100 member countries of the World Health Organization are meeting in Buenos Aires with the aim of strengthening defenses against substandard and fraudulent medicines,” Amir Attaran of the University of Ottawa and Roger Bate, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, write in a New York Times opinion piece. “The meeting is extremely important, but to make progress a number of hurdles will have to be overcome,” they say, noting a paper recently published in the BMJ outlines such challenges. “In Buenos Aires, the delegates first need to agree which medicines are good and which are bad,” the authors say, adding, “[C]ountries need to agree that protecting intellectual property and public health are two different things.” Unless countries define the “difference between honest drug companies that sell accidentally substandard medicines, and organized criminals who sell a deliberately falsified … drug,” then “criminals will continue to slip through loopholes and honest companies, pharmacists and doctors will find themselves prosecuted unjustly,” they write.

French Oil Company Funding Rotavirus Research In Congo

“Medical researchers in the Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) have been empowered to set their own research priorities through a funding mechanism backed by a French oil company, according to scientists speaking at the second European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), in South Africa this month,” SciDev.Net reports. “In 2011, the Congolese Foundation for Medical Research signed an agreement with TOTAL, stipulating that the energy giant would fund specific research activities and pay salaries,” which “enabled the foundation to set its own research priorities — a break with the usual funding constraints whereby researchers’ priorities are dictated by foreign funding agencies,” the news service writes.

Academic Rigor, Better Data Needed For WASH Programs

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and community-led total sanitation (CLTS) programs are coming under increased academic scrutiny, Darren Saywell, the WASH/CLTS technical director at Plan International USA and vice-chair to the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) initiative, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, adding, “I personally see this trend as positive. It’s long overdue; and in its absence the WASH sector has lost ground to competing interests which have understood that the way to a donor or politician’s heart and head is through compelling evidence, simply told.” He outlines several steps international non-governmental organizations can take to improve data and cooperation to reach their output goals (11/19).

Report Provides Recommendations For Action On TB Among Children

In a guest post on the Global Health Technology Coalition’s “Breakthroughs” blog, Mandy Slutsker, senior project associate with the ACTION Partnership, describes a new report that calls for increased efforts to fight tuberculosis (TB) among children worldwide (Lufkin, 11/13). The report, titled “Children and Tuberculosis: From Neglect to Action,” “makes some core recommendations for donor governments and high burden countries to tackle the rates of children with TB and the knock-on financial and social difficulties faced by millions,” according to the TB Europe Coalition (11/13). In the GHTC’s blog, Slutsker writes, “It’s time for civil society, health care workers, governments, and the private sector to come together and ensure no child dies from this preventable and treatable disease” (11/13).

Blog Examines RTS,S Malaria Vaccine Trial Results

In a post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Owen Barder, a senior fellow and director for Europe at the CGD, reports on the results of a large Phase III clinical trial conducted in Africa on the malaria vaccine candidate RTS,S, published online in the New England Journal of Medicine on Friday. “The study of the phase III trials finds that in babies (aged 6-12 weeks) the vaccine only reduces malaria by less than a third. This is disappointing because this is less than half the effectiveness that had been suggested by the phase II clinical trials,” he writes. “The RTS,S vaccine demonstrates that it may, in principle, be possible to develop a vaccine against malaria, even if this particular candidate vaccine is not eventually successful,” Barder states and highlights an Advance Market Commitment approach proposed by the CGD, under which “donors would not choose research programs to fund” but would instead “contract to pay for a successful vaccine, if and when it is developed” (11/10).

Research!America To Launch Ad Campaign Highlighting Health Research Funding

National Journal’s “Influence Alley” blog reports on a new ad campaign from Research!America. “In a new ad campaign launching next Monday, the non-profit advocacy group warns that ‘Washington politics just might kill you,'” the blog states, adding, “Their spot emphasizes the importance of funding biomedical and health research to find cures for disease.” According to the blog, the ad “will run in National Journal, National Journal Daily, The Hill, Politico, Roll Call, CQ Today, and CQ Weekly” and will appear in some Washington, D.C., Metro stations next week (Mershon, 11/8).