The following statement—from Global Health Council, supported by the Global Health Technologies Coalition—was delivered at the 148th session of the WHO Executive Board on Agenda Item 8: Global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property.

The Global Health Council and Global Health Technologies Coalition thank the chair and distinguished delegates for this opportunity to comment on the global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property. 

As outlined in the review panel’s report, although progress has been made in certain aspects of both innovation and access, many of the challenges that motivated formulation of the GSPOA remain, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed both long-standing shortcomings as well as new challenges. These include a lack of new health products in areas of need and of sustainable financing for research, the unaffordability of many new medicines and other health technologies, a lack of essential health products or products not appropriately designed for use in low-resource settings, ineffective delivery and supply chain infrastructure, and the absence of robust regulatory frameworks, mainly but not exclusively in low-income countries. 

To address these challenges, and to ensure faster access for patients to safe and effective products, we call on WHO to continue providing support to strengthen the capacity of national and regional regulatory functions and systems, including for improving late-stage clinical trial regulatory review and oversight. Promoting regional harmonization of regulatory functions could also be instrumental in ensuring regional resources are coalesced toward meeting shared goals in this area, and hopefully speeding up regulatory approval processes.

We urge WHO to strengthen the Global Observatory on Health Research and Development as an information-sharing mechanism and would welcome an expansion of the Observatory’s analysis and synthesis of health research and development (R&D), including defining global strategic directions for specific diseases, pathogens, and conditions, drawing on information from WHO specialized departments.

We support the recommendation outlined by the review panel calling on WHO to develop target product profiles for missing antibiotics, diagnostics tools for priority pathogens, and medical devices including personal protective equipment.

We call on member states to encourage more R&D on conditions affecting susceptible populations including children, adolescents, and pregnant and lactating people, and urge WHO to continue its efforts to expand the Essential Diagnostics List.

We believe that WHO plays a vital role in setting normative standards, and we urge member states and all stakeholders to continue to work together to ensure everyone has access to new quality assured health technologies.

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