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Experts, Advocates Urge Continued Funding For Research Into HIV, TB Vaccines

“[P]articipants at a symposium held last week by the U.K. Consortium on AIDS and International Development warned that [progress on HIV and tuberculosis (TB) vaccines] could be jeopardized by the recent downturn in global health funding,” BMJ reports. The journal summarizes comments made at the meeting by researchers and advocacy group representatives, who stressed that successful vaccines for HIV and TB would save millions in existing research investments and long-term treatment costs (Moszynski, 5/22).

Blogs Report On Controversy Surrounding Lancet Study Examining Millennium Development Project

Following controversy surrounding a study published in the Lancet earlier this month that examined the impact of the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) on child mortality, “both the authors of the paper and the journal itself have finally responded,” blogger Matt Collin writes in the Aid Thoughts blog and provides a link to the post in the World Bank’s “Development Impact” blog that began the debate. The blog notes that study author Paul Pronyk of the Earth Institute, in a letter (.pdf) to the Lancet, retracts the child mortality data in the study and accepts that mathematical errors highlighted in the “Development Impact” post were made (5/18). In the Roving Bandit blog, blogger Lee Crawfurd discusses the Lancet editors’ response (.pdf) and writes, “There are definitely lessons to be learned across [the medical and economic] disciplines both ways. It’s just an incredibly sad state of affairs that one of the lessons that journals of medicine, the discipline that gave us randomized controlled trials, needs to learn from economics, is a more careful attention to statistics and causality” (5/21). In a post in the Christian Science Monitor’s “Africa Monitor” blog, blogger Tom Murphy summarizes the controversy and writes, “The discussion is important, say the critics, because of the popularity and cost of the MVP” (5/23).

IRIN Examines WHO Process Of Translating Research Results Into Policy Recommendations

IRIN examines the WHO’s regulatory approval process for making evidence-based recommendations, noting, “Governments will generally not implement an intervention without the WHO stamp of approval.” The news service writes, “No matter how compelling, medical research has historically not guaranteed swift regulatory approval, but researchers are finding ways to speed up translation of their conclusions into policy.” The news service cites the WHO’s recommendations regarding the use of insecticide-treated bednets in 2007 and the administration of seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) in children in sub-Saharan Africa in 2012 as examples. “Similarly, scientists working on a malaria vaccine are optimistic that they will receive a WHO recommendation soon after trial results are reported in 2014,” IRIN notes (5/23).

WHO DG Chan Addresses World Health Assembly; HHS Secretary Sebelius Speaks At Plenary Session

“Opening the 65th annual World Health Assembly (WHA) [on Monday in Geneva], World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan said she sees a bright future for health development, despite financial crises that many countries are facing, which has shrunk support for many initiatives,” CIDRAP News reports. According to the news service, “Chan said the WHO can leverage its leadership role to make the most of small and wise investments” and that “[u]niversal health coverage is the best way to maintain health gains that have been made over the past decade” (Schnirring, 5/21). Focusing on innovations that bring social benefit rather than profit, as well as research and development into new treatments, also are important, Chan noted, Devex reports (Ravelo, 5/22).

Bill Introduced In U.S. Senate Is Latest Push To Award Prizes For New Drug Development

“As Washington prepares for a major international AIDS conference this summer, developments on the drug front are once again elevating the subject of the continuing epidemic in the public eye,” CQ HealthBeat reports. The article mentions an FDA panel’s recent recommendation for the approval of Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus and a bill (S 1138) introduced last week by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) aimed at reducing the cost of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). The bill, which is focused on the cost of ARVs in the U.S., would “create a $3 billion ‘prize fund,’ through which [pharmaceutical] firms that bring a new HIV or AIDS medicine to market would get awards” in exchange for relinquishing patent rights to the drug, according to CQ (Norman, 5/18).

Government-Supported 'Prize Funds' Would Help Important Drugs Have Greater Social Impact

“Every year, millions of people die from preventable and treatable diseases, especially in poor countries,” World Bank Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate, writes in this BusinessDay opinion piece. “In many cases, life-saving medicines can be cheaply mass-produced, but are sold at prices that block access to those who need them,” and “many die simply because there are no cures or vaccines, because so little of the world’s valuable research talent and limited resources is devoted to addressing the diseases of the poor,” he continues, arguing, “This state of affairs represents a failure of economics and law that urgently needs to be corrected.” Stiglitz continues, “The good news is that there are now opportunities for change, most promisingly through an international effort headed by the World Health Organization that would begin to fix the broken intellectual-property regime that is holding back the development and availability of cheap drugs.”

Further Examination Of Key Findings Of Policy Innovation Memorandum On Safety Of World Drug, Vaccine Supply

In this post on her blog, “The Garrett Update” — the last of a series of posts examining the safety of drugs and vaccines — Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), further details the key findings of the CFR’s Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 21, a six-point policy recommendation for the G8/20 that she authored, titled “Ensuring the Safety and Integrity of the World’s Drug, Vaccine, and Medicines Supply.” She concludes, “The crisis is global, growing and massive. Unless international solutions are eagerly embraced, such as we and others have recommended, the very integrity of Medicine and Public Health will be undermined amid a steadily rising toll of illnesses and deaths ascribed to bad medicines” (May 2012).

Potential Public-Private Partnership Aims To Bring TB Vaccine Trials To Mines Of Southern Africa

GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports on a potential public-private partnership that aims to bring tuberculosis (TB) vaccine trials to the gold mines of Southern Africa, where, “[f]or every 100,000 workers …, 3,000 have tuberculosis, and many have often-fatal, drug-resistant strains of TB.” The blog writes that mining company “Anglo American announced Tuesday at the GBCHealth Conference [in New York] that it has agreed in principle to make its mines available for TB vaccine trials organized by Aeras, a non-profit that has 12 TB vaccine candidates now in various stages of research,” noting, “No formal agreement has been reached, but Anglo American’s spokesman vowed to make it happen.”