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Producing More Drugs For Lethal Diseases Is Not The Answer

A fresh report shows that diseases like HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria, Chagas and Sleeping Sickness have more and more drugs available to treat them these days.// This increase in drug production is happening despite the fact that most diseases affect poor countries, which cannot afford costly medicines. Researchers say that some incentives must be put into place so that poor can access these drugs.

The report (The New Landscape of Neglected Disease Drug Development) by Mary Moran and colleagues at the Pharmaceutical Research and Development Policy Group, The George Institute, argues that drugs for neglected diseases are increasingly being developed partly due to the use of public-private partnership (PPPs) mechanisms that spread the financial and organisational risk of product development. Anne-Laure Ropars, from the George Institute will be discussing the rise of drug development for neglected diseases and the role of PPPs at a major international conference, organised by the ESRC Innogen Centre to be held in London on 5-6 September 2006.

Steven Matlin, Executive Director of the Global Forum for Health Research, also speaking at the conference, does not believe that the increases in development of health products for neglected diseases (drugs, vaccines and diagnostics) is simply due to the rise of PPPs. Matlin also stresses the rise of a group of 'innovating developing countries' (IDCs) including Brazil, China, India and South Africa. He argues that these countries have "growing national capacity for high-quality manufacturing to convert the inventions into health products for both domestic and international markets."

Matlin does acknowledge the challenges faced by both PPPs and IDCs in developing health products for neglected diseases. The third speaker in this conference session, Robert Eiss, Executive Director of the Centre for the Management of Intellectual Property in Health Research, tackles these challenges in more depth. Eiss belie ves that correct market incentives and, in particular, appropriate intellectual property management are lacking. Eiss states that there is a "need to develop and promote forms of intellectual property management and technology transfer practice that help ensure access for the poor through the strategic use of such tools as price tiering and market segmentation, and the engagement of R&D and manufacturing capacities in countries where the targeted disease is endemic."


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