Improving Access to Essential Health Technologies: Focusing on Neglected Diseases, Reaching Neglected Populations
Date: 1-2 February 2007
Vanue: Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand
The Prince Mahidol Award Foundation was established in commemoration of the Centenary Birthday Anniversary of His Royal Highness Prince Mahidol of Songkla on 1 January 1992. The foundation is chaired by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. The Prince Mahidol Award (PMA) was established in honour of HRH’s initiative and efforts that produced a remarkable and lasting impact on the development and improvement of modern medicine and public health in Thailand. HRH was subsequently honoured with the title of “Father of Modern Medicine of Thailand” and “Father of Public Health of Thailand.” The Prince Mahidol Award is conferred annually by His Majesty the King of Thailand to individual(s) or institution(s) for outstanding performance and/or research that has a global impact in the field of medicine and public health. The Award was first conferred in 1993 and will achieve its 15th anniversary in 2007.
To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Award, a conference focusing on important global health issues that have global impacts will be organized. The Prince Mahidol Award Conference 2007 (PMA Conference 2007) will be held on 1-2 February 2007 under the theme of “Improving Access to Essential Health Technologies: Focusing on Neglected Diseases, Reaching Neglected Populations.”
It is a tragedy that the poor, who are most in need of access to health technologies to prevent disease and restore good health, are the least likely to be able to access these technologies. Bill Gates at the 58th World Health Assembly in 2005 provided several macro political and economic reasons for limited access of the poor to essential medicine:
“… Rich governments are not fighting some of the world’s most deadly diseases because rich countries don’t have them. The private sector is not developing vaccines and medicines for these diseases because developing countries can’t buy them. And many developing countries are not doing nearly enough to improve the health of their own people. … In order to find new discoveries and deliver them, we need to make political and market forces work better for the world’s poorest people.” According to the Report of the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health (CIPIH) 2006, the Innovation Cycle encompasses three interrelated phases: the Discovery phase which
includes basic research, the Development of the Discovery phase, and the Delivery phase to get the products to patients. How the three phases be of better benefit to those in need, both in developed and developing countries, are the main concern of the PMA Conference 2007. The Conference would address all diseases types. Type I diseases affect both rich and poor countries where Discovery and Development is not a major problem, but Delivery especially to the poor in rich and other developing countries is a real problem. With regards to Type II diseases which are more prevalent in developing countries (the neglected diseases) and Type III diseases which are exclusively prevalent in developing countries (the very neglected diseases), patients in developing countries are facing either no Discovery, or Discovery but no further Development, or no effective Delivery or no secure
financing or all of the above.
Economic and market forces direct vaccine sales and vaccine production towards the needs of markets with effective purchasing power. Yet the scientific and technological progress that drives the Development of such innovative vaccines holds the promise of applicability for vaccines that are urgently needed for developing countries. This results in orphan
drugs and vaccines.
While observing intellectual property rights, new mechanisms and incentives for research and development (R&D) of innovations in global public goods is needed to minimize the impact of intellectual property rights and patent protections that might lead to unaffordable prices for new technologies and result in limited access, especially for the poor in developing countries.
Progress is required to ensure that new technologies are affordable and relevant to the needs of developing countries, including their disease patterns and health systems capacity. In addition, mechanisms to secure a sustainable demand for new technology, for example through advance purchase commitments, must be developed.
There is a need to overcome health systems constraints in order to effectively, efficiently, and equitably deliver both existing and new health technologies to the populations most in need of these technologies.
The Prince Mahidol Award Conference 2007 will address issues of accessibility to health technologies in order to bring global attention to this important problem and to suggest actions that would improve health access in order to improve the health of the most vulnerable populations and hence contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).