“Some academics and non-profit organizations are skeptical of the motives of the increasing number of multinational companies who seek partnerships to address non-communicable diseases (NCDs),” Derek Yach, senior vice president of global health and agriculture policy at PepsiCo and former head of NCDs at WHO, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. He asks, “So how well is the private sector doing in tackling the rising pandemic of NCDs, which cause nearly two out of every three deaths in the world (80 percent of those in developing countries), the four main ones being cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes?” He continues, “The private sector is a major stakeholder in many ways — as employers; makers of food and medicines, sports gear and technology; as corporate citizens and consumers — and wants to be engaged in the global NCD dialogue. We deserve a seat at the table.”
Private Sector Involvement
French drug maker Sanofi on Thursday announced a new three-year research collaboration agreement with the TB Alliance “to accelerate the discovery and development of novel compounds against tuberculosis,” RTTNews reports (9/20). “According to company material, the projects will explore a compound which researchers believe has potential to treat all forms of tuberculosis, investigate another class of natural derivatives that has shown ‘impressive’ activity against tuberculosis bacteria, and identify future candidates for development among chemical compounds in Sanofi’s collection,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog writes (Barton, 9/20). RTTNews notes, “Sanofi, which discovered rifampicin in the early 1960s, markets several anti-tuberculosis drugs” (9/20).
The Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm) — an innovative financing mechanism that subsidizes the cost of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) in order to expand access to the most effective treatment for malaria — “brought more than 100 million doses of malaria drugs to clinics and pharmacies in 2011” and “also increased access to the top malaria medicines by 26 to 52 percent in six countries,” according to results from the first phase of the program, which is hosted and managed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. The results of the evaluation, released on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., do not estimate how many lives were saved because of improved access to effective malaria medications, as “AMFm ran for only a year and half in most countries,” according to the blog. “The AMFm negotiated with drugmakers to reduce ACTs prices, and then the Global Fund subsidized the initial purchasing of the drugs by clinics and pharmacies,” the blog notes.
Bill Gates Describes How 'Catalytic Philanthropy' Can Help Bring Vaccines, Medicines To Untouched Markets
In an essay adapted for Forbes magazine from a speech given at the Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy in June, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discusses how “[i]nnovations for the poor suffer from … market limitations” and his idea of “catalytic philanthropy.” Gates writes, “The market is not going to place huge bets on research when there are no buyers for a breakthrough. This explains why we have no vaccine for malaria today, even though a million people die from it every year.” Therefore, “when you come to the end of the innovations that business and government are willing to invest in, you still find a vast, unexplored space of innovation where the returns can be fantastic,” he continues.
With nearly 6,000 reported cholera cases, including more than 100 deaths, Guinea is facing the worst cholera outbreak since 2007, and “some residents of the capital Conakry are clamoring to be vaccinated,” IRIN reports. “The cholera vaccine has shown promising results in the handful of communities where it has been used: none of those vaccinated have been infected,” the news service writes, noting, “For now cholera vaccination is not generally done on a large scale.” According to IRIN, “WHO and partner agencies are planning a cholera vaccine stockpile for epidemic control and looking at the possibility of introducing the two-dose oral vaccine into national immunization programs in endemic areas,” but the agency also “says such stockpiles should not detract from other prevention efforts: detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cases with oral rehydration and antibiotics; establishment of a safe water supply; implementation of adequate waste disposal, sanitation, and hygiene; and communication and social mobilization.”
Noting the Copenhagen Consensus has stated that “large-scale micronutrient fortification is a proven and cost-effective intervention that can mitigate malnutrition in the form of vitamin and mineral deficiencies and enhance the well-being of millions,” Marc Van Ameringen, executive director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), writes in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog, “On September 9, 2012, [GAIN] launched a partnership in Kabul with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health, the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation (KBZF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) to help alleviate the burden of malnutrition in Afghanistan by bringing more nutritious wheat flour, vegetable oil, and ghee to approximately half of the country’s population.”
The first-ever results from a dengue virus vaccine clinical trial aimed at showing effectiveness “provide signals rather than definitive answers, and a mixture of both promise and unresolved challenges,” Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center, and Ciro de Quadros, executive vice president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, write in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog. “To date, these represent the most promising indications that a safe, effective vaccine to prevent dengue is technically feasible,” they continue, adding, “At the same time, the results on protection were inconclusive, somewhat inconsistent with the measured immune responses and uneven across the four strains included in the vaccine.”
“Severe droughts, rising grain prices and food shortages — the latest headlines are an urgent call for action,” and “it is time to step up our response,” Suma Chakrabarti, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), write in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. On September 13, the EBRD and FAO will convene the Private Sector for Food Security Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, “the largest and most important gathering of companies and decision-makers in agribusiness from the Caspian and Black seas to the Mediterranean … [to] discuss the key role of the private sector in feeding the world,” they note. “The simple truth is that the world needs more food, and that means more production,” they state, adding, “The private sector can be the main engine of such growth.”
As the BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India, and China — invest more in innovations in health technologies and other areas, “many are looking to these countries to correct the global health research and development (R&D) imbalance that leaves the poor without needed products such as an improved tuberculosis (TB) vaccine or tests to help diagnose patients in remote rural settings,” David de Ferranti, president of Results for Development Institute (R4D), writes in the Huffington Post Blog. Writing that “India, which has already played such an important role in manufacturing affordable antiretroviral drugs, vaccines, and other essential health commodities for developing countries,” de Ferranti asks whether India “is … ready to play a leading role in health R&D?”
In an opinion piece in the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” blog, Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, discusses potential policies contained within the “Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a pact that the United States is negotiating with Australia, Canada, Japan and eight other countries in the Pacific region.” However, “[a]t this point, it’s not really possible to discuss the merits of the TPP since the governments are keeping the proposed text a secret from the public,” he says. Noting “[a] few items that have been leaked give us some insight as to the direction of this pact,” he discusses how the “pharmaceutical industry is … likely to be a big gainer” from the TPP if the pact includes “stronger and longer patent protection and also increased use of ‘data exclusivity.'”