In her “Global Health Blog,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley speaks with GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty about the year-long efforts to bring together the heads of more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies in a large public-private initiative to control or eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). “In terms of what should this industry be doing preferentially, it should be making available the drugs which nobody else has for people in these countries who suffer from these diseases … and we should be committing ourselves to discover more, better drugs for the future, and we’re doing that today and we’re collaborating with others to make it happen quicker,” Witty said (1/31).
Private Sector Involvement
Pharmaceutical company heads and global health leaders gathered at a conference on Monday in London to announce the formation of a large public-private partnership to fight neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and endorse the “London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases” (.pdf), in which they pledged to work together and track progress. The following is a summary of two opinion pieces and a blog post in response to the news.
The New York Times examines developments in circumcision technology, after “three studies have shown that circumcising adult heterosexual men is one of the most effective ‘vaccines’ against [HIV] — reducing the chances of infection by 60 percent or more.” The newspaper writes, “[P]ublic health experts are struggling to find ways to make the process faster, cheaper, and safer” and “donors are pinning their hopes on several devices now being tested to speed things up.” The New York Times reports on several circumcision methods currently being tested, including PrePex, which received FDA approval three weeks ago and “is clearly faster, less painful and more bloodless than any of its current rivals” (McNeil, 1/30).
In this AlertNet commentary, GAVI Alliance CEO Seth Berkley discusses how “public-private partnership is part of the GAVI Alliance’s formula for success that has helped countries to immunize 325 million children in our first 10 years, saving more than 5.5 million lives.” Writing last week from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Berkley says, “In fact, public-private partnerships are part of what brings me to Davos this week.”
Thirteen pharmaceutical companies; the governments of the U.S., U.K. and United Arab Emirates; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the WHO; the World Bank; the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi); and other global health organizations “announced a new, coordinated push to accelerate progress toward eliminating or controlling 10 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by the end of the decade,” according to a press release (.pdf) from Global Health Strategies. “In the largest coordinated effort to date to combat NTDs,” the partners will provide 14 billion doses of medications by the end of the decade and share expertise and products to speed research and development of new drugs, the press release notes.
Business and political leaders meeting in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Thursday agreed that the focus on the global financial crisis “won’t matter unless people have one basic thing: Enough food to eat,” the Associated Press reports. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “estimates there are at least 925 million undernourished people in the world — almost one in seven,” the AP notes. FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said, “The problem is not the supply side. … The problem is the access — they don’t have the money to buy it or they don’t have the water and land they need if they are subsistence farmers,” according to the news service (Heilprin, 1/26).
Speaking at an event organized by the Every Woman Every Child initiative on Thursday, “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [called on] business leaders attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, to increase their investment in women’s education and health to ensure their well-being and encourage their participation in the world economy,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “‘The business community can help. Your partnership is crucial in preventing unnecessary suffering for women and girls everywhere,’ Mr. Ban said, adding that despite recent progress, much remains to be done,” the news service notes.
“As the World Economic Forum kicks off this week in Davos, Switzerland, the importance of global health — and the health of the globe — is getting special attention,” Karl Hofmann, president and CEO of Population Services International (PSI), writes in this post in The Hill’s “Congress Blog.” He continues, “The world’s still massive bottom of the economic pyramid — some 2-3 billion people — represents a potential $5 trillion in purchasing power,” but without access to “quality health care and services, … their global economic impact suffers. Imagine if by simple investments in health, we turned these struggling individuals and families into healthy, active consumers and producers.”
The argument that “a country’s quickest way to better health for its people is economic development … is only one factor, and not the most important one, in explaining global health outcomes,” Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, writes in a SciDev.Net opinion piece. “The challenge is to ensure that a cheap basic package of health interventions is available to — and is used by — all,” he continues.
In this PLoS Medicine research article, Reed Beall and Randall Kuhn of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver provide an analysis of trends in compulsory licensing (CL) of pharmaceuticals since the Doha Declaration. “Almost 10 years after the Doha Declaration, we examined the subsequent occurrence of CL episodes, an important direct indicator of treaty impact,” they write. Given that “compulsory licensing activity has diminished greatly since 2006, … the researchers conclude, health advocates who pushed for the Doha Declaration reforms have had little success in engaging trade as a positive, proactive force for addressing health gaps,” according to the article’s Editors’ Summary (1/10).