“A top U.S. business group, frustrated with years of stalemate in world trade talks, on Wednesday urged the Obama administration to pursue a new agenda with fewer countries centered on services trade, health care and cross-border digital data flows,” Reuters reports. The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), “which includes big U.S. corporations like Boeing, Caterpillar, Chevron, General Electric, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Proctor & Gamble, United Technologies, and Wal-Mart, has long pushed for a Doha round agreement among the 153 members of the World Trade Organization that would open markets in agriculture, manufacturing and services” but “those talks have been stalled since at least 2008,” Reuters notes.
Private Sector Involvement
In a White House briefing on Wednesday, “senior Administration officials announced a series of new initiatives to promote game-changing innovations to solve long-standing development challenges” in response to President Obama’s “call to harness science technology, and innovation to spark global development,” Gayle Smith, special assistant to the president, and Tom Kalil, senior adviser for science, technology, and innovation, write in this post in the White House Blog (2/8). “The new collaborations we’re launching today will help save lives from hunger and disease, lift people from poverty and reaffirm America’s enduring commitment to the dignity and potential of every human being,” President Barack Obama said at the briefing, according to a White House press statement, which details several new public and private sector initiatives announced at the meeting (2/8).
Following the announcement on Monday that 13 pharmaceutical companies, several large non-profit organizations, governments, and U.N. agencies are joining forces to fight neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), Al Jazeera’s “Inside Story” interviewed several experts in the field, asking, “Why have these diseases been neglected for so long? And how effective will the new plans be to counter these diseases and, in turn, alleviate poverty? Is the target date of 2020 set by the initiative realistic to wipe out some of the world’s deadliest conditions? And what is in it for them?” according to the show’s summary. Host James Bays discusses these and other issues with guests Tido Von Schoen-Angerer, director of the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Access Campaign; Lorenzo Savioli, director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases at the WHO; and Mario Ottiglio, associate director of Global Health Policy and Public Affairs at the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (2/1).
“To tackle neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), we need a far more collaborative and flexible approach,” Mark Booth, acting deputy director of Durham University’s Wolfson Research Institute and head of the N8 Parasitology Group, writes in this New Statesman opinion piece. Booth references the publication of new malaria mortality estimates in the Lancet and the signing of the so-called “London Declaration on NTDs” by a consortium of public and private partners last week and writes, “Malaria is not classified as an NTD because relatively large amounts of attention and funding have been pitted against the parasite. But if we now have to rethink malaria control strategies, then how confident can we be about controlling or eradicating any of the 17 NTDs identified by the World Health Organization?”
“An expanding network of eye clinics has found an innovative way of providing quality, affordable treatment to millions of blind and visually impaired poor people in India,” the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters” blog reports. The LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI), a not-for-profit organization that runs a chain of 82 eye care centers and a research institute in India, uses tiered pricing to charge wealthier patients for treatment, allowing the group to provide free treatment to poorer patients.
Trade Officials, Public Health Advocates To Discuss Intellectual Property, Access To Medicines At Open Hearing
“The U.S. government has an unfortunate history of pressuring low- and middle-income countries to observe strong intellectual property protection on medicines …, block[ing] access to generics in countries unable to afford expensive brand name drugs sold by American drug companies,” a post on infojustice.org reports. “[Thursday], trade officials will hear from public…
“Decades of war, neglect, and lack of development have left South Sudan with nine out of 10 of th[e] key neglected tropical diseases [NTDs] — all but Chagas disease, which is endemic to South America,” and health workers in the new nation are hoping that the recent formation of a large public-private partnership to combat the diseases “will finally help to have an impact on South Sudan’s appalling health indicators,” IRIN reports. With only one in four people in South Sudan able to access health care, people “seek other explanations for diseases such as sleeping sickness, as they are liable to blame its symptoms on witchcraft and only seek medical attention as a last resort,” the news service writes. The nation has the highest incidence of guinea worm disease and the third-highest incidence of sleeping sickness, according to IRIN (2/23).
In this post in the Results for Development Institute’s “Center for Global Health R&D Policy Assessment” blog, Project Director Jean Arkedis and Program Associate Edith Han interview Megumi Gordon, deputy director for malaria at the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), “to take an exclusive look into the [Affordable Medicines Facility for Malaria (AMFm)] and its innovative mechanism to increase access to antimalarials.” Megumi discusses “AMFm’s current status, early lessons, and the latest in the ongoing — and sometimes contentious — debate about whether to subsidize [artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs)] in the private sector” (2/22).
Writing on the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s website, Sarah Sagely Klotz, executive director of Hamlin Fistula USA, reports on how private U.S. investments “are building maternal care capacity and producing tremendous results” in Ethiopia. “Unfortunately, around the globe women are often neglected and have very limited access to maternal care,” she writes, adding, “Through the generous investments made by many Americans, however, communities in developing countries are yielding substantial and lasting benefits” (2/14).
This report, published by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) on Tuesday and titled “The Private-Sector Role in Public Health,” reflects on an evolution in the roles and responsibilities of business in global health over the recent decades. “Private-sector engagement was among the main issues addressed at the recent 4th High Level Forum for Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea,” CSIS writes on its website, adding, “[A]s Lars Thunell, executive vice president and CEO of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), observed, ‘This could be the turning point where we recognize the mutually supportive roles of the private and public sectors in promoting development'” (Sturchio/Goel, 1/31).