As the United States and other member countries of the G20 meet in Hangzhou, China, September 4-5, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is urging them to address the failures of medical research and development (R&D) to deliver medicines, vaccines and diagnostics that match the health needs of people around the world instead of only focusing on the most lucrative products.
“As G20 leaders attempt to confront the problems they are facing with medical research, they must promote new approaches, including for new antibiotics for tuberculosis and other drug-resistant infections that will actually meet the needs of people in their countries and beyond. MSF is concerned that some proposals under consideration could actually restrict future access to affordable medicines and prevent needs-driven innovation. Medical research and development that is driven by protecting monopoly markets has gotten us to where we are today – lacking the new medical products we need, and fighting for better access to existing medical tools. The status quo is no solution: G20 governments must take the lead in championing new ways of developing medicines and tools that don’t rely on high prices to recoup research and development costs. But to make this a reality, we need governments to be bold enough to take concrete action.”—Katy Athersuch, Medical Access and Innovation Policy Advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign
As G20 governments are confronted with the failures of the current innovation system, they should promote new approaches to finance and prioritize medical R&D, including antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which includes tuberculosis. MSF is concerned that some proposals being considered would actually restrict access to affordable medicines by increasing intellectual property monopoly protections for pharmaceutical companies.
More restrictive intellectual property rules, including increased patenting of pharmaceutical products, can block or delay availability of affordable generic medicines and limit the potential for needs-driven innovation. Medical R&D that is driven by the reward of protected monopoly markets means that pharmaceutical product priorities are set based on profit potential, rather than on how well products will match patient needs or their capacity to pay.
At the G20, governments should seize the opportunity to champion new approaches that break the link between how R&D is financed and how products are prioritized and priced. As the G20 will focus in particular on the role of R&D in tackling drug-resistant infections related to AMR, it is critical that alternative R&D approaches be explored and supported in all AMR initiatives, so that the products that are delivered match patient needs.