New UK Parliamentary report on Global TB urges the United Kingdom to explore a WTO Agreement on the Provision of Public Goods

On 8 July 2014, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland's All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Tuberculosis (APPGTB) released a seminal report entitled, "Dying for a Cure: Research and Development for Global Health." The APPGTB is co-chaired by Andrew George MP (St Ives, Liberal Democrat), Rt Hon Nick Herbert MP (Arundel and South Downs, Conservative) and Virendra Sharma MP (Ealing Southall, Labour). The recommendations set out in this report call upon the UK government to champion a WHO R&D Treaty, 2) explore the WTO Agreement on the Supply of Public Goods and embrace the concept of de-linkage.

In framing its objective, the APPGTB noted,

[i]n this report we will examine the current landscape of global health R&D, and seek to explain why access and availability are often seemingly pitted against one another. We will discuss a number of reform proposals both inside, and parallel to, the current system of pharmaceutical development. We will explore the unique role of the UK government in the global health R&D arena and ask what more can be done. Finally, we will produce a clear set of recommendations for the UK government and others that we believe will lead towards long overdue reforms to the global health R&D system.

In its recommendations, the APPG called upon the UK to explore KEI's proposal for a WTO Agreement on the Provision of Public Goods. In its justification, the APPGTB report noted that a WTO Agreement on the Provision of Public Goods "could enhance incentives for countries to invest in R&D for global health and facilitate new collaborations and coordination" and "would strengthen the UK’s position in trading agreements and help capitalise on significant financial commitments already made to global health." The APPG's recommendation on exploring at WTO Agreement on the Supply of Public Goods specifically targets the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth office and the UK Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.

As part of its recommendations on "Changing the Global Landscape", the APPG called upon the UK government to advance a WHO R&D Treaty. In particular, the APPG recommended that the UK "commission an economic paper to contrast the total costs of developing and purchasing medical tools using the current prevailing R&D model with the costs of a de-linked model, using the findings to steer UK global public health policy and provide the evidence base for reforms in the international arena."

The scale up in funding, coordination and collaboration required to develop necessary health products will be extremely difficult to achieve without global agreement. A WHO Global R&D Convention would create structures that would delink the R&D process from the sale of the final product and incentivise innovation based on global health need. This agreement will be unlikely to succeed without the backing of a powerful HIC government such as the UK. The government should spearhead efforts to consolidate support for the change, working to ensure the 2016 WHA agree and act upon such a plan. To support this process, the UK should commission an economic paper to contrast the total costs of developing and purchasing medical tools using the current prevailing R&D model with the costs of a de-linked model, using the findings to steer UK global public health policy and provide the evidence base for reforms in the international arena. (UK Government)

With respect to antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the APPG called upon the UK's Department of Health and Department of Business, Innovation & Skills to "drive forward with non-commercial models to tackle AMR" noting that "[g]overnments and pharmaceutical companies have acknowledged that traditional incentives are not going to deliver the next generation of antibiotics." The APPG urged the UK to build upon the recently developed Longitude Prize, to spur non-commercial models of antibiotic development and establish this as a launch pad for "wider R&D reform and prove that alternative models can be successful."

The APPG report provides much food for thought for UK policymakers. In light of the recent Cabinet reshuffle and the upcoming election in 2015, one hopes these perspicacious recommendations on mainstreaming de-linkage as a model for biomedical innovation, exploring the WTO Agreement on the Provision of Public Goods and championing the WHO R&D Treaty will not fall on deaf ears.