The Washington Post examines the influence of commercial interests on the “political declaration” that emerged from this week’s U.N. High-level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in New York. NCDs “are the globe’s biggest health problem, responsible for 63 percent of all deaths each year, with incidence growing steeply in the low-income, rapidly urbanizing nations of the world,” but they “are deeply entangled with important global industries, not only tobacco but also food, pharmaceuticals, advertising, transportation and construction,” the newspaper writes, adding, “The bigger issue in preparing the document, however, was how much to invoke the … World Trade Organization’s agreement on intellectual property, known informally as TRIPS” (Brown, 9/20).
Private Sector Involvement
World leaders attending the first-ever U.N. High-level Meeting on Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) kicked off the summit on Monday by “unanimously approving a ‘political declaration’ meant to stem a rising tide of [NCDs], now the world’s leading killer,” CNN reports (Ariosto, 9/19). The declaration “call[s] for a multi-pronged campaign by governments, industry and civil society to set up by 2013 the plans needed to curb the risk factors behind the four groups of NCDs — cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes,” according to the U.N. News Centre.
Foreign Affairs on Tuesday published an analysis examining the history of negotiations behind the political declaration approved on Monday by leaders attending the U.N. High-level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
“[F]ar too many children in Kenya and other African countries continue to suffer unnecessarily each year due to the misdiagnosis of fever, which contributes to the deaths of nearly three million children of less than five years of age from malaria and pneumonia,” Willis Akhwale, head of Kenya’s Department of Disease Prevention and Control in the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, writes in a Daily Nation opinion piece, saying that health care workers “desperately need a test that can quickly and accurately identify and distinguish between fever-causing diseases.”
Some of the issues to be addressed at the U.N. High-level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) taking place this week in New York “are controversial, including those relating to intellectual property rights for new medicines, diagnostics and medical devices,” James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International, writes in an Al Jazeera opinion piece. “By continuing to assert that the Doha Declaration is in fact limited in various ways, U.S. and European trade negotiators have tried to discourage the granting of compulsory licenses on patents for high-priced drugs for cancer and other non-communicable diseases,” he continues, before outlining a proposal called the “cancer prize approach” that would de-link drug prices from research and development incentives.
The New York Times describes how, as the U.N. begins its meeting on non-communicable diseases (NCDs), Chinese and Indian generic drug makers “say they are on the verge of selling cheaper copies” of costly biotech medications used to treat cancers, diabetes, arthritis and other chronic illnesses. “Their entry into the market in the next year — made possible by hundreds of millions of dollars invested in biotechnology plants — could not only transform the care of patients in much of the world but also ignite a counterattack by major pharmaceutical companies and diplomats from richer countries,” the newspaper writes.
U.S.-based pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly and Company on Tuesday announced it will spend $30 million over five years to fight the rising burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in developing nations, the Indianapolis Star reports (Swiatek, 9/13). According to a Lilly press release, the company is launching the Lilly NCD Partnership “to identify new models of patient care that increase treatment access and improve outcomes for underserved people” (9/13).
With negotiations over the outcomes for the U.N. High-level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) stalled, “[i]t is feared that sound proposals for clear goals and timelines to tackle these devastating diseases are being systematically deleted, diluted and downgraded by some U.N. Member States and urgent action is needed to put the negotiations back on track, when they recommence on September 1,” Rob Moodie, chair of Global Health at the Nossal Institute of Global Health, writes in the Crikey health blog “Croakey.”
With more widespread access to antiretroviral (ARV) drugs “comes a greater need to monitor and promote the safety and effectiveness of these essential medicines in the new environments, which are distinct from those of pre-market studies and the resource rich countries that have had ARV access for years. Without sufficient monitoring systems in place, we can’t efficiently identify and stop counterfeiting of ARV drugs,” Jur Strobos, deputy director of the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research, and Andy Stergachis, professor of epidemiology and global health and director of the Global Medicines Program at School of Public Health at the University of Washington, write in an opinion piece in The Scientist.
David Stuckler of the University of Cambridge, Sanjay Basu of the University of California, San Francisco, and Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, write in a BMJ commentary that misconceptions and fallacies “have led to serious under-budgeting for non-communicable diseases” (NCDs). The authors question whether food companies, or lobbying groups and non-governmental organizations that are influenced by food corporations, should “be viewed as trusted partners and have a seat at the table during public health negotiations” leading up to the U.N. High-level Meeting on NCDs.