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Thai Health Advocates Work To Protect Special Provisions On Medicines Under E.U. Free Trade Agreement

Thailand and the European Union (E.U.) are expected to begin talks on a free trade agreement early this year, and Thai public health advocates have sent a letter to Joao Aguiar Machado, deputy director general for trade at the European Commission, “call[ing] for the bloc to respect global trade rules’ special provisions for developing countries,” Inter Press Service reports. “‘We are worried that the E.U. negotiators will force Thailand to accept new conditions on patents that would make access to new generic drugs more difficult,’ says Chalermsak Kittitrakul, campaign officer at the AIDS Access Foundation,” the news service writes, adding, “Thai health activists are hoping that their record of mounting successful campaigns against pharmaceutical giants — even from the United States — to ensure a thriving generic drugs market for patients in the country and across the region remains intact” (Macan-Markar, 12/29).

FDA Grants Accelerated Approval To Drug To Treat MDR-TB

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration [on Monday] approved Johnson & Johnson’s drug to treat a form of resistant tuberculosis that is uncommon in the U.S. but growing globally,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The drug, Sirturo, will treat patients with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, or MDR-TB, a possibly fatal disease that affects as many as 630,000 people worldwide who can’t be cured with existing therapies alone,” the newspaper notes (Walker/Tadena, 1/2).

More Work Ahead In TB Drug Development, Treatment Delivery

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the tuberculosis (TB) drug Sirturo, also known as bedaquiline, “appears to be just the first step in an exciting renaissance for TB drug development,” Mark Harrington, executive director of Treatment Action Group (TAG), writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “Another new drug, delamanid, is currently in late clinical trials and has been submitted to the European Medicines Agency for review as a treatment for [multidrug-resistant (MDR)] TB,” he notes. Harrington concludes, “It’s an exciting time for TB treatment, but much more needs to be done and more resources are needed. We need to focus not only on the discovery and development of new drugs, but also on ensuring that news drugs are delivered to those who need them and in combinations that can prevent the emergence of new types of drug resistance” (12/28).

Mobile Technologies Helping Mothers Receive Health Information

“Twenty years ago this month, the first text message was sent through the airwaves,” Sharon D’Agostino, vice president for worldwide corporate contributions and community relations at Johnson & Johnson, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, adding, “Since then, text messages have been used to communicate all sorts of information. Most inspiring to me is how the technology once used to send a holiday wish is transforming the way women and families receive the information they need to be healthier — no matter where in the world they are.” She discusses several initiatives working with mobile technologies to improve health education and access, and states, “The ubiquity of the mobile phone provides the perfect method to deliver critical health information, as more than a billion women in low- and middle-income countries have access to a mobile phone” (12/20).

Reviewing G-FINDER Report Findings

Nick Chapman, a policy analyst at Policy Cures, writes in a guest post on the Global Health Technologies Coalition’s “Breakthroughs” blog about “the results of the latest G-FINDER survey on global funding of [research and development (R&D)] for neglected diseases.” He discusses several findings and trends from the report, including the impact of the global financial recession on R&D funding; the relatively stable level of U.S. funding; the concentration of pharmaceutical company funding to “a limited number of diseases with some commercial overlap, such as dengue fever, bacterial pneumonia and meningitis, and tuberculosis (TB)”; the shift away from product development funding from public funders; and the effect of these trends on product development partnerships (PDPs) (Lufkin, 12/19).

Nigeria Can Eradicate Polio With International Support

“Nigeria is one of only three countries — along with Afghanistan and Pakistan — that remains blighted by polio,” Aliko Dangote, founder and CEO of the Dangote Group and chair of the Dangote Foundation, writes in a Project Syndicate opinion piece. He notes Nigeria is “one of Africa’s most developed countries,” “the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in Africa,” home to “thriving Nigerian businesses,” and “will soon surpass South Africa to become Africa’s largest economy.” However, “Nigerians cannot hope to lead Africa, economically or otherwise, while neglecting to eliminate preventable diseases like polio,” he writes.

Seattle Times Examines Partnership Between Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Uganda Cancer Institute

The Seattle Times examines a partnership between the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI). In 2008, “the two institutes formally agreed to collaborate on clinical care and research projects, and more recently a major building project at Uganda’s only cancer-research center,” the newspaper writes. Corey Casper, director of the UCI/Fred Hutchinson Research Center Cancer Alliance, “says [the partnership] has the potential to demonstrate ‘that you can do first-rate research that can alter the impact of cancer care in the developing world, and that the craft of oncology can be practiced as well in Africa as it is in the developed world, just like it is with HIV,'” according to the Seattle Times (Silberner, 12/16).

Blogs Discuss Conference On Neglected Diseases

Several blogs recently reported on issues discussed last week during a conference sponsored by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, titled “Lives in the Balance: Delivering Medical Innovations for Neglected Patients and Populations.” The following is a list of those posts.

Conference Addresses Issues Of Innovation For Neglected Diseases

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine this week are hosting a conference in New York, titled “Lives in the Balance: Delivering Medical Innovations for Neglected Patients and Populations,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. In a video presentation, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim “told the conference … that the goal is to ‘lay the foundation of a health science that works for the poor,'” according to the newspaper. “That means innovative research on diseases and delivery systems geared to people in developing nations, not the more affluent ones, greater sharing of ideas, and support for developing nations so they can assist in the process from beginning to end,” the newspaper writes (Sell, 12/14).

Efforts To Prevent, Treat Cervical Cancer Increasing In Africa

The Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog” examines efforts to prevent and treat cervical cancer in sub-Saharan Africa, where “cervical cancer kills large numbers of women, many of whom are never diagnosed because local hospitals do not recognize the disease until it is too late.” However, “[a] very simple and cheap form of screening has begun to be introduced — and now there is the possibility of a vaccination program against the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes most cervical cancers,” the blog writes, noting a recent announcement by the GAVI Alliance that it plans to fund HPV immunization programs in several countries. According to the blog, “15 countries [are] asking to be considered,” and “Uganda and Rwanda have already been approved, although some ‘clarifications’ are required from the governments on how their programs will run.” The blog continues, “No one believes it will be easy to introduce the HPV vaccination in Africa, and there may be problems,” including issues with efficacy and cost (Boseley, 12/14).