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Officials At WHA Fail To Agree On Convention To Encourage R&D Into Health Issues In Developing Countries

Health officials attending last week’s World Health Assembly “failed to come to an agreement on a binding convention on stimulating research and development [R&D] focusing on the health problems of developing countries,” BMJ reports. The negotiations focused on an April report by the WHO Consultative Expert Working Group (CEWG) on R&D, which included a recommendation “that all countries — developing and developed — should commit around 0.01 percent of their gross domestic product to research into and development of treatments for the health problems of developing countries,” the news service notes. However, “[t]he United States (despite the fact that it already meets this target), the European Union, and Japan blocked this recommendation, and instead member states agreed on the final day of the assembly that the report would be discussed at regional committee meetings in the next few months,” BMJ writes, noting that “WHO will hold a global meeting later in the year that will report back to WHO’s executive board meeting in January” and that “[n]ew proposals will be put on the agenda for next year’s assembly” (Gulland, 5/28).

The Huffington Post, in an article featuring background and reaction, writes that Nils Daulaire, director of the Office of Global Health Affairs for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, objected “most notably [to] a provision that would require all nations involved in the talks to contribute to a fund to fight disease in developing countries.” The news service writes, “Daulaire and the Obama administration want to keep this research voluntary, rather than binding under an international agreement,” and “Daulaire also objected to the new fund on the grounds that it could be construed as ‘a global tax'” (Carter, 5/25). IRIN also features an analysis of the proposal and mentions that a recent briefing (.pdf) by Medecins Sans Frontieres notes “this and other efforts to correct a ‘fatal imbalance in R&D’ are ad-hoc and inadequate” (5/25).