In this post, Claire Wingfield, product development policy officer at PATH, writes about a new paper (2.34 MB PDF) exploring why research and development (R&D) of high-priority health tools for diseases and conditions affecting low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) should be a critical component of the post-2015 development agenda.
A lack of adequate health technologies and interventions targeting poverty-related diseases means millions of people in LMICs continue to die each year from preventable and treatable diseases and conditions. Progress on developing new interventions has faltered because diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and neglected tropical diseases occur almost exclusively among the world’s poorest and most marginalized populations. There continues to be little or no perceived commercial market encouraging companies to develop products targeting LMICs.
One major goal of the post-2015 development agenda is to achieve health for all within one generation, but the health burden imposed by poverty and social vulnerability remains far too high.
Bridging the divide
A new paper (2.34 MB PDF)—developed in partnership by the Council on Health Research for Development, the Global Health Technologies Coalition, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, and PATH—makes the case for the inclusion of health research and innovation as a central component of the post-2015 development agenda. The paper describes the impact increased investments in innovative health R&D have had—particularly for the world’s poorest—toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
These investments have helped create a stronger environment for research in LMICs by increasing demand for new health technologies, expanding coverage of proven interventions, and strengthening their innovation infrastructure. And yet, much more needs to be done.
Building on the work of the Lancet Commission on Investing in Health—a group of renowned economists and global health experts—the paper discusses the need for increased R&D investments by all countries to achieve the dramatic health gains envisioned in the post-2015 agenda.
Adequate investment levels are critical for spurring the development of new health tools, provided they align with financing needs in R&D—notably predictability and flexibility. But investment alone does not guarantee that innovative products will be developed; ones that are suitable, acceptable, affordable, and accessible to populations most in need. It is essential that indicators for R&D for health tools primarily affecting LMICs address a comprehensive set of needs including financing, infrastructure and human resources, enabling policies, necessary partnerships, capacity strengthening, and access requirements.
Poor health and disability contribute substantially to poverty, while health research and innovation are linked to eradicating poverty and improving economic prosperity. Ultimately, the success or failure of the post-2015 agenda relies just as much on how the goals and targets are implemented as it does on how the progress will be measured.
The post-2015 development agenda is an opportunity for LMICs to set their own health agendas and research priorities and to assert their leadership in strengthening the R&D landscape focused on the poorest and most marginalized populations. There must be broad agreement among all of the relevant stakeholders that health research and innovation—which includes the scale-up of proven health interventions as well as the development of new and improved high-priority health technologies—is critical to meeting the ambitious goals of eradicating poverty and ensuring sustainable development for all within a generation.
Over 150 organizations and individuals recently signed a petition to United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Member States urging the UN to keep the research, development, and delivery of new and improved health tools for diseases and conditions impacting LMICs at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda. It is our hope that the Member States and other UN officials shaping the agenda will advocate for this support.