The “improvement and extension of health care in Africa is … being constrained by gaps in financing,” according to a new report (.pdf) by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) based on research commissioned by Janssen Pharmaceutica, a Belgian subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, the Financial Times’ “beyondbrics” blog reports (Wheatley, 3/1). The report, titled “The Future of Healthcare in Africa,” “discusses the continent’s traditional health care issues, such as communicable diseases or financing health care in economically difficult circumstances” and “also addresses less well-known topics, such as the threat of obesity and heart disease, the use of mobile technology, development of more preventive care, and more,” according to the Janssen website (3/1). The report “identif[ies] the key trends shaping African health care systems” and uses them “to develop [five] scenarios that depict the possible health landscape on the continent in 2022,” a Janssen press release (.pdf) states (3/1).
Private Sector Involvement
“On Monday, the Indian Patent Office effectively ended [German drug maker] Bayer’s monopoly for its [cancer drug] Nexavar and issued its first-ever compulsory license allowing local generic maker Natco Pharma to make and sell the drug cheaply in India,” Reuters reports. “India’s move to strip … Bayer of its exclusive rights to [Nexavar] has set a precedent that could extend to other treatments, including modern HIV/AIDS drugs, in a major blow to global pharmaceutical firms, experts say,” the news service writes, noting, “It is only the second time a nation has issued a compulsory license for a cancer drug after Thailand did so on four drugs between 2006 and 2008.” Thailand also has issued compulsory licenses for HIV/AIDS and heart disease medications, according to Reuters (Kulkarni/Foy, 3/13).
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is “to give $220 million over five years to the non-profit biotech firm Aeras to develop vaccines to fight tuberculosis [TB], a company statement said Thursday,” Agence France-Presse reports (3/15). The “grant will allow Aeras to advance several vaccine candidates into pivotal large-scale efficacy trials in South Africa and elsewhere,” South Africa’s Health-e writes (Thom, 3/15). According to AFP, Aeras “has developed six possible TB vaccines that are being tested across Africa, Asia, Europe and America” (3/15).
PAHO Press Release Responds To Reuters Article, Says Private Sector Not Involved In Decision-Making Processes
“The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) strongly disagrees with the allegations in the recent Reuters article that the food and beverage industry advises our policymaking” with respect to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the agency said in a press release on Saturday. “In line with PAHO Member States mandates and the Declaration of the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases held in New York in September 2011, PAHO adheres to a comprehensive approach to fight NCDs, which includes governments, civil society, academia, international organizations, and private sector,” the press release states, adding, “The goal is to work together to raise awareness, promote new and innovative initiatives, and share best practices on the prevention and control of NCDs, as well as in health promotion and behavioral changes.” The press release describes how PAHO works to “manage potential conflicts of interest and ensure transparency and independence in the Organization’s decision-making process,” and the release states, “Private companies are not involved in health policies formulation or in decision-making processes of the Organization” (10/20).
MSH’s “Global Health Impact” blog provides a Storify summary of a Washington Post Live panel discussion on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that took place last week. The blog notes, “One year after the U.N. summit on non-communicable diseases, Washington Post Live convened experts in the NCD and public health community to engage in an in-depth, collaborative working session and analysis in front of a small group of media, fellow health experts, and policymakers” (Hassinger, 10/22). The Washington Post provides video highlights from the discussion (10/17).
The non-profit advocacy group Research!America on Monday released a list titled “Top 10 Reasons To Invest In Global Health R&D,” which “provides compelling reasons why the investments are critical, from the humanitarian benefits to being a powerful driver of U.S. economic activity,” according to an e-mail alert (10/15). The list’s webpage states, “The U.S. needs to strengthen its investment in this important research, not only because it saves millions of lives worldwide but because it benefits the health of Americans, spurs new businesses and jobs in the U.S., helps protect our troops on the ground, and promotes global stability and security. Federal funding for global health R&D is the smart thing to do for the U.S. and the right thing to do for the world” (10/15).
Though the number of children dying of preventable and treatable diseases worldwide has dropped significantly since 1990, there is “realistic hope for much more” progress, particularly if “[i]mproved hygiene and sanitation … play a key role in the next stage,” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. Noting that “diarrhea and pneumonia are the two leading killers of children, accounting for almost 30 percent of under-five deaths globally,” they state, “Vaccines can help, but improved hygiene and sanitation are also vital, and therefore key to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of cutting the child mortality rate by at least two-thirds by 2015.”
The Financial Times has published a special report (.pdf) on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) featuring 10 articles examining issues including prevention, research, and treatment.
To fight chronic “diseases in Mexico, the nation with the world’s highest rate of obese and overweight adults, a Reuters investigation found that WHO’s regional office has turned to the very companies whose sugary drinks and salty foods are linked to many of the maladies it’s trying to prevent,” the news service reports. “The office, the Pan American Health Organization, not only is relying on the food and beverage industry for advice on how to fight obesity,” but, “[f]or the first time in its 110-year history, it has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in money from the industry,” Reuters writes.
The Harvard School of Public Health announced on Thursday that Regina Rabinovich, former director of infectious diseases at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been chosen to be the ExxonMobil Malaria Scholar in Residence, “where she will focus on innovative strategies to combat malaria,” according to a Harvard press release. “The ExxonMobil Malaria Scholar in Residence program is one of several activities under a new cross-university initiative called ‘Defeating Malaria: From the Genes to the Globe,’ which aims to produce, transmit and translate knowledge to support the control and ultimate eradication of malaria,” the press release states, adding, “Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), in collaboration with the Harvard Global Health Institute, is spearheading the effort, which is being launched in partnership with the United Nations Special Envoy for Malaria. The ExxonMobil Foundation is funding the one-year residency program” (10/4).