18 May 2015 | Statements

Health leaders see partnership driving innovation

Top public health officials from South Africa, Chile, Brazil, Cote d’Ivoire and France, and from organizations targeting HIV, TB and malaria met in Geneva to discuss leveraging innovation to accelerate the end of the three epidemics.

Opening the event on Sunday on the eve of the World Health Assembly, Philippe Douste-Blazy, Under Secretary General for the UN and Chair of the UNITAID board, said there was a clear link between innovative solutions and progress in global health.

Calling for increased efforts to promote innovation, Dr. Douste-Blazy cited GeneXpert as an example of a new diagnostic technique which had reduced the time it takes to detect TB from many weeks to a matter of hours.

The event, co-hosted by UNITAID and the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) featured global and country perspectives to inform discussions at the World Health Assembly this week on the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Minister of Health for South Africa, Aaron Motsoaledi, said UNITAID and the Medicines Patent Pool had played a big part in bringing down the prices of antiretroviral drugs and putting large numbers of patients on treatment. “This is where UNITAID and MPP have played a significant part and I would hope that they are able to expand their role to other diseases such as TB.”

Lelio Marmora, Executive Director of UNITAID said the past eight years since UNITAID’s creation had shown how facilitating access to new solutions can have a game-changing impact on global health. “Cutting prices by 70% of critical medicines for HIV, by 40% for a new test for multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, and making it possible for more than 300 million of the best anti-malarials to be supplied, have contributed to significant progress against three major global pandemics,” he said. “We must continue to realize ever greater opportunities to leverage innovation to achieve the global goals.”

Others who addressed the meeting included MPP Chairman Charles Clift, Brazil’s Health Minister Arthur Chiaro, Chilean Health Minister, Carmen Castillo, Cote d’Ivoire’s Health Minister Raymonde Goudou Coffie and Benoit Vallet, General Director for Health at France’s Ministry of Social Affairs, Health and Women’s Rights.

As part of a global response to HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, UNITAID was created in 2006 to play a catalytic role in global health, transforming game-changing ideas into practical solutions that overcome obstacles to progress. It does so by speeding the delivery of new, better and more affordable medicines and technologies; and, by investing in innovative solutions that match identified needs.  Ultimately it allows the broader landscape of donors, countries, communities, and other purchasers to do more with less in resource-limited settings.

UNITAID created the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) in 2010 as a key component of its market shaping efforts to improve access to HIV medicines. The MPP aims to lower the prices of HIV medicines and facilitate the development of better-adapted therapies, such as simplified “fixed-dose combinations” (FDCs) and special formulations for children through voluntary licensing and patent pooling. “As the world’s only patent pool for HIV medicines, MPP partners with a range of stakeholders – including industry and civil society – to increase access to WHO-recommended ARVs in low and middle income countries,” said Greg Perry last evening. “We think this approach has merit and can play a key role in scaling up treatment for millions of people living with HIV and thus meeting HIV global targets.”

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