Confidential documents related to the World Health Organization Expert Working Group on innovative financing for research and development surfaced today, revealing the group’s thinking as well as pharmaceutical industry thinking about the WHO process. The documents immediately raised concern about possible undue access to the process by industry; the WHO told Intellectual Property Watch the industry group was not supposed to have the documents.
The documents appear to have come from the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), and include draft reports on innovative financing mechanisms from the working group as well as an analysis by the IFPMA on the reports’ contents. They were released on Wikileaks, a website that anonymously publishes sensitive documents.
“IFPMA was not supposed to have working drafts of the expert working group in their possession and they were not given these documents,” said Precious Matsoso, director of Public Health Innovation and Intellectual Property (PHI) at the WHO, under whose auspices the expert working group falls. “It was understood by the working group that its report is intended for the director general and WHO members”, she added.
Public health advocates reacted strongly to the leaked documents. “The IFPMA document confirms much of what had been feared,” that there is “a larger WHO strategy to protect the status quo, particularly as it relates to intellectual property issues,” said James Love, the director of Knowledge Ecology International, a non-profit group focussed on transparency in policymaking and which has been advocating for prize funds, a biomedical R&D treaty, and other initiatives to fund R&D.
An introductory letter included with the documents addressed to the Public Health Advocacy Committee at IFPMA says “the overall result [of the working group's report] is in line with most of the industry positions on this matter,” but says that “there is still room for them to introduce new language” as the documents date from before the final working group meeting concluded on 2 December.
The Expert Working Group’s “comparative analysis of innovative financing proposals for health R&D,” available from Wikileaks here [pdf], divides aspects of drug development into six categories and then lists the ideas from “least likely” to “most likely” to work.
The six categories are: fundraising, research and development capacity building in developing countries, basic research and product discovery, product development, manufacturing and distribution, and efficiencies.
The draft reports available on Wikileaks do not contain final recommendations. These will be available only in the final report, expected to be released this week (IPW, WHO, 7 December 2009). Instead, it contains an analysis of all proposals made thus far, through two calls for advice from the public, and ranks them on efficacy and feasibility.
Within “fundraising,” proposals considered “least likely to work” include diverting existing resources to health, reducing tax evasion and havens, levying new charges on services or access rights. A proposal for a “Green IP” system (IPW, Inside Views, 27 June 2008) is currently “too hard to operationalise” but some elements could potentially be useful.