A new policy report released today by the global nonprofit research and development organization Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (MDNI) highlights how the development of therapies has been relatively neglected in the global response to COVID-19 and warns that with the few therapeutic innovations available mainly in high-income countries, we risk repeating history and reproducing inequality vaccines that has become a defining feature of this global pandemic.
To avert another access and innovation crisis, the authors offer a series of recommendations for an immediate correction of course in the COVID-19 response. This includes increasing attention to the need for therapy; transform the governance structure of the COVID-19 Access Tool Accelerator (ACT-A) to ensure equal representation of low- and middle-income countries, and ensure policies such as a temporary waiver of the intellectual property to ensure the transfer of technology to ensure access for all.
Great strides have been made in developing new tools for COVID-19, especially vaccines, but the past year has made it clear that access is the unfinished business of global health. We now have the opportunity to turn things around with treatments and make the response to COVID-19 a model of fairness, collaboration and knowledge sharing. “
Dr Bernard PÃ©coul, Executive Director, Drugs for Neglected Diseases Iinitiative
An area that has been particularly neglected in early therapeutic interventions that could prevent disease progression and the need for hospitalization, intensive care or worse. The report calls for further support for open drug discovery and development of new antivirals, host-targeted interventions and reused compounds, as well as for robust testing of these options in comparable adaptive platform trials.
In addition to calling for more equal representation within ACT-A, the authors argue that ACT-A should make removing barriers to intellectual property a key cross-cutting line of work across all pillars. of its mandate and explicitly support TRIPS exemption and licensing initiatives that would facilitate the sharing of technology, data and know-how. The report also urges ACT-A to take explicit steps to improve transparency regarding the development, production and supply of COVID-19 drugs, diagnostics and vaccines.
Given the huge public funding devoted to the development of COVID-19 technologies, the report urges government funders to use their influence to negotiate clear and transparent terms and conditions that ensure the sharing of research data, knowledge and technology on a non-proprietary basis to enable adequate scale-up of production and ensure sufficient supply, fair allocation and affordability.
As policymakers around the world assess options for the future of global health and pandemic preparedness, the report also offers timely policy recommendations. He argues that more urgent steps need to be taken to shift towards a more decentralized, distributed and democratic approach to access and innovation that ensures greater parity between rich and poor and offers new health technologies as a as global public goods.
‘With the rapid spread of worrying variants, the international community cannot afford to wait to meet the needs of those most at risk of infection and death.‘said Dr PÃ©coul. ‘But we also need to act now if we are serious about building a safer world from existing and future epidemics and pandemics – now is the time to build an international system that will ensure equal access to life-saving biomedical innovations.‘
Neglected Disease Drugs Initiative