The courage to change the rules: A Proposal for an essential health R&D treaty


Caption: Clinical Officer Preparing Sodium Stibogluconate Solution Injection for a Patient with Visceral Leishmaniasis. Sodium stibogluconate solution is administered by intramuscular injection for 30 days. The injection is painful and can cause toxic reactions. Developed in 1934, resistance of up to 65% has been documented in India. Around 50,000 people die from visceral leishmaniasis each year. New, effective drugs and diagnostics are urgently needed. (Photograph: Copyright Espen Rasmussen/MSF, Somalia, 2004)
Click here for a high resolution photograph.

Although biomedical science and technology are developing at a more rapid pace than ever, the medical needs of many of the world's population go unmet. Only 1% of new drugs approved between 1975 and 1999 were specifically developed for tropical diseases and tuberculosis - diseases that account for over 10% of the global disease burden. What we need, argue Nicoletta Dentico and Nathan Ford of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Working Group ( in this month's PLoS Medicine, is a new international treaty on essential health research and development (R&D) that would "provide a binding framework to redirect today's knowledge and scientific expertise to priority needs."

The treaty, they say, would focus directly on R&D rather than patent rights or drug prices, and it would address the global management of publicly funded health R&D. "Priorities for R&D would be defined through public-sector leadership and based on public health needs."

Dentico and Ford argue that the World Health Organization, as the only legally mandated international government agency responsible for global health, should work toward establishing this essential R&D agenda. Individual member states of the WHO "would need to periodically evaluate targets for priority research and make adequate recommendations towards needs-driven R&D."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
    Published on All rights reserved.