June 05, 2005
In today's Observer (the Sunday sister newspaper of the Guardian), Gordon Brown sets out his plan to fight disease.
Our focus will be a plan to support a new international platform for research into vaccines and cures, public-private partnerships and advance purchase schemes for their development and, finance, to build the capacity of health-care systems.On advance purchase agreements, he says:
But even with the discovery of a vaccine that could prevent a million deaths a year, the work has only started. The challenge is that in an area where there are insufficient purchasers with money we need to ensure that the vaccine, when developed, goes into commercial production and is available at affordable prices.That is why the British government is inviting other countries and companies to join us to explore a jointly agreed advance purchase scheme to underwrite the buying of millions of vaccines and, in doing so, further encourage their development not just for malaria but for new strains of TB and HIV/Aids.... Much is already being done through the praiseworthy International Aids Vaccine Initiative and Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise. Yet currently, only Â£400 million a year is spent on researching an Aids vaccine. This is less than 10 pence a year per person suffering from HIV/Aids.The UK's new tax credit to stimulate research into diseases prevalent in the developing world is but a start. If we just keep spending at the current level, we could expect to have a partially effective vaccine for the developing world by around 2020. If, by doubling research and development spending over the coming five to 10 years we could bring forward the discovery of an Aids vaccine, we could save millions of lives.So, the challenge is to internationalise research, share information and co-ordinate it globally and to concentrate resources on top scientific priorities. That is why Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for International Development, is pushing forward ideas for a worldwide infrastructure to share and co-ordinate Aids research and to encourage the development of viable drugs, vaccines and other technologies such as microbiocides. But we need to do more - from funding development, production and trials to financing systems for advance purchasing. If donors committed to buying, say, the first 250 million vaccine courses at $15 per course, that would translate into a $4bn guarantee, enough to generate much stronger interest in further research and development from both large and small pharmaceutical firms.Any plan must also do more to finance the treatment and care of the 40 million people (and their families) who currently live with HIV/Aids.
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