An international treaty is needed to improve medical research worldwide

May 15, 2012

An international treaty is a promising tool for improving the coherence, fairness, efficiency, and sustainability of the global health research and development system according to international experts writing in this week's PLoS Medicine.

Suerie Moon from the Harvard Institute, Jorge Bermudez from Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, and Ellen 't Hoen from the University of Amsterdam argue that such a treaty—an R&D treaty—should be based on the understanding that a politically and financially sustainable system for generating will require both fair contributions from all, and fair benefit sharing for all.

The authors argue: "Medical innovation and access to the fruits of scientific progress are no longer policy concerns restricted to the national level or to wealthy countries alone." They continue: "In an era of health interdependence, effective tools for global governance are required to generate medical R&D as a global public good that can deliver benefits for all."

According to the authors, the current system for the (R&D) of new medicines does not adequately meet the needs of the majority of the world's population, 80% of whom live in developing countries. For example, there is no global system of rules to ensure that new medicines are affordable to the majority of people who need them, and funding for R&D into the diseases that predominantly affect developing countries remains precarious, with contributions falling last year in the wake of the economic crisis.

This situation has prompted extensive international debate and proposals for reform but despite the emergence of many new approaches to generating R&D that meets the needs of poorer populations, the authors believe that such efforts remain ad hoc, fragmented, and insufficient.

The authors argue: "An R&D treaty could complement and build on existing initiatives by addressing four areas that remain particularly weak: affordability, sustainable financing, efficiency, and equitable governance."

They continue: "An international agreement is likely to be required to establish robust, sustainable, predictable, and sufficient financial flows for R&D."

The authors make the case for treaty rules which could structure financial rewards for innovation so that they are commensurate with a medicine's health benefit. They say: "A system in which all countries contributed finances and knowledge could form the basis of more equitable governance arrangements in which affected populations have a stronger voice in decision-making."

They conclude: "Leaders of governments, civil society, industry, and academia should seize this unprecedented opportunity to move forward."

Explore further: Framework convention on global health needed

More information: Moon S, Bermudez J, 't Hoen E (2012) Innovation and Access to Medicines for Neglected Populations: Could a Treaty Address a Broken Pharmaceutical R&D System? PLoS Med 9(5): e1001218. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001218

Related Stories

Framework convention on global health needed

May 11, 2011
In this week's PLoS Medicine, Lawrence Gostin from Georgetown University, Washington DC, and colleagues argue that a global health agreement—such as a Framework Convention on Global Health—is needed and would inform ...

A new mental health framework is needed to prioritize action on global mental health

February 28, 2012
For mental health to gain significant attention, and funding from policymakers globally, it is not enough to convince people that it has a high disease burden but also that there are deliverable and cost-effective interventions ...

Scientists call for fundamental governance overhaul to ensure Earth's sustainability

March 15, 2012
Some 32 social scientists and researchers from around the world, including a Senior Sustainability Scholar at Arizona State University, have concluded that fundamental reforms of global environmental governance are needed ...

Many countries still lack a health research strategy

April 24, 2012
Although there has been a steady increase in medical research from low- and middle- income countries in recent decades, there are still many countries that lack anything resembling a health research strategy, according to ...

How can guideline development and policy development be linked?

March 13, 2012
In the second paper in a three-part series on health systems guidance, John Lavis of McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada and colleagues explore the challenge of linking guidance development and policy development at global ...

Recommended for you

Molecular hitchhiker on human protein signals tumors to self-destruct

July 24, 2017
Powerful molecules can hitch rides on a plentiful human protein and signal tumors to self-destruct, a team of Vanderbilt University engineers found.

Researchers develop new method to generate human antibodies

July 24, 2017
An international team of scientists has developed a method to rapidly produce specific human antibodies in the laboratory. The technique, which will be described in a paper to be published July 24 in The Journal of Experimental ...

New vaccine production could improve flu shot accuracy

July 24, 2017
A new way of producing the seasonal flu vaccine could speed up the process and provide better protection against infection.

A sodium surprise: Engineers find unexpected result during cardiac research

July 20, 2017
Irregular heartbeat—or arrhythmia—can have sudden and often fatal consequences. A biomedical engineering team at Washington University in St. Louis examining molecular behavior in cardiac tissue recently made a surprising ...

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.