The U.N. has suspended vaccine work in Pakistan following the tragic killings of eight health workers during a three-day polio immunization campaign. Other health workers have been injured or threatened during efforts to deliver vaccines to children around the country.
Polio is a highly infectious disease and can cause irreversible paralysis, but there is a vaccine that can prevent the disease. Coordinated efforts from organizations like the World Health Organization, Rotary International and the Gates Foundation have helped reduce the threat of polio through vaccine distribution and stronger surveillance systems. Thanks to these highly successful immunization campaigns, the total number of polio cases per year has fallen by 99% since 1988. Although polio is nearly eradicated, it remains endemic in three countries, including Pakistan. Immunization in these areas is essential not only to protect the health of local individuals, but to prevent re-infection in nearby countries that are currently polio-free.
To read the full story, visit U.N. Halts Vaccine Work in Pakistan After 2 More Killings.
–Morgan McCloskey, global health intern
On December 13 and 14, the global health community gathered at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York for a conference called “Lives in the Balance: Delivering Medical Innovations for Neglected Patients and Populations.” Hosted by Mount Sinai Global Health, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), and Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), the conference aimed to spur innovation for new tools to combat neglected diseases.
Several key themes emerged from the conference. First, there is a ‘fatal imbalance’ between the burden of neglected disease and medical innovations to combat these illnesses. Neglected diseases affect more than 1.4 billion people worldwide and account for nearly 11% of the global disease burden. In contrast, MSF’s Jean-Herve Bradol, MD, pointed out that of 850 new therapeutic products approved in the past decade, only 4.4% were for neglected diseases. Furthermore, only 1.4% of 148,445 clinical trials were for neglected diseases. To solve this problem, many presenters agreed that there must be a new global framework for global health R&D. A new framework would place an emphasis on public financing and some called for all countries to pledge 0.01% GDP to government-funded R&D.
In addition to reforming the global R&D system, several panelists mentioned the importance of improving access. This means not only improving access to medicines among neglected patients but improving information sharing and access to essential compounds among researchers. The idea of access must also be built into the beginning of the research process. For example, considering storage temperatures or dosage early on in the R&D process will help to ensure that the new tools being developed can be easily utilized in the field.
The conference has put a spotlight on the need for more research to combat neglected diseases. Diseases that once only existed in the developing world are becoming an increasingly large threat in Europe and in the U.S. Cases of multi-drug resistant TB are on the rise, and we need much better treatment options to cure patients. Only two drugs are currently available to treat Chagas disease; both were developed more than 35 years ago, have toxic side effects and are not effective in all patients. It is more important than ever before that governments, philanthropic groups and the private sector come together to help reform the global R&D system, improve access and find new tools to help neglected patients and populations around the world. Many have called this time, these partnerships and current innovations in modern science an unprecedented opportunity for neglected disease R&D. Others are frustrated by the seeming regression in global health due to non transformative “stopgap” efforts, citing drug resistant TB as an example. Both may be right. With unified advocacy to raise awareness and engage political and civic will for NTDs, we can successfully channel both the frustration and the opportunity ahead of us.
Majority of Americans Doubt Congress and White House Can Resolve Budget Problems and Avoid Fiscal Cliff
Poll Reveals Deep Concerns Among Americans about Impact of Spending Cuts to Medical Research
Alexandria, Va.—December 13, 2012—Nearly 60% of Americans are skeptical that Congress and the White House will reach an agreement that will avoid the fiscal cliff, according to a new national public opinion poll commissioned by Research!America. More than 80% of Republicans, nearly 40% of Democrats and 65% of Independents say they are “not too confident” or “not at all confident” current negotiations will result in a deal. The findings reveal growing doubt among many Americans that Congress and the Administration will be able to make a deal that would avoid tax increases for most Americans and major funding cuts for federal agencies, including those that are responsible for funding medical research.
“Congress and the Administration must make bold decisions to address our nation’s deficit, but cutting funding for research should not be one of them,” said Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley. “We cannot afford to drain the research pipeline as other countries challenge our world leadership in science and innovation.”
An overwhelming majority of Americans (83%) say that medical research is important to reducing health care costs. And an even larger percentage (87%) believe that it is important that our nation support research that focuses on improving how our health care system is functioning.
Even in a challenging fiscal environment, Americans continue to place a high priority on biomedical and health research. Upon learning that the percentage of government spending allocated for biomedical and health research is roughly 1.5%, almost half of Americans (48%) believed that it was not enough. In fact, 54% would be willing to pay $1 per week more in taxes if they were certain that all of the money would be spent for additional medical research. This comes as no surprise, as more than half (55%) of Americans do not believe that the U.S. is making enough progress in medical research.
“Our polling underscores support for a stronger investment in research — there’s no doubt that people want a cure, sooner rather than later, for Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer and so many other diseases and disabilities,” added Woolley. “In a time when difficult decisions have to be made, Americans overwhelmingly believe research and innovation should be prioritized.”
Other poll highlights include:
- More than three-quarters of Americans (78%) say that it is important that the U.S. work to improve health globally through research and innovation.
- Nearly 70% of Americans believe that the federal government should increase support for programs and policies that would increase the number of young Americans who pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
- 66% of Americans, say they would be willing to share personal health information to advance medical research assuming that appropriate privacy protections were used.
- 68% of Americans say it’s important that the federal research and development tax credit is made permanent.
The National Public Opinion Poll was conducted online in December 2012 by JZ Analytics for Research!America. The poll had a sample size of 1,000, with a theoretical sampling error of +/- 3.2%. To view the poll, visit: http://www.researchamerica.org/uploads/December2012pollslides.pdf
About the National Public Opinion Poll
Research!America began commissioning polls in 1992 in an effort to understand public support for medical, health and scientific research. The results of Research!America’s polls have proven invaluable to our alliance of member organizations and, in turn, to the fulfillment of our mission to make research to improve health a higher national priority. In response to growing usage and demand, Research!America has expanded its portfolio, which includes state, national and issue-specific polling. Poll data is available by request or at www.researchamerica.org.
Research!America is the nation’s largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by member organizations representing 125 million Americans. Visit www.researchamerica.org.
On December 3, Policy Cures released its fifth annual G-FINDER report, a comprehensive survey of funding for research and development for neglected diseases. The report tracks global public, private and philanthropic investments into R&D for 31 diseases, including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and NTDs. In positive news, this year’s report shows that total funding has actually increased by $443 million since 2007.
The report demonstrates that government funding, which accounts for over two-thirds of all investment, is increasingly going toward basic academic research, rather than product development. Research!America believes it is vital that the entire research pipeline be fully funded. Basic research will help us understand the best ways to tackle these neglected diseases and give us a better understanding of disease and the human body. However, we also need robust funding for the development of urgently needed tools like drugs, vaccines and diagnostics. This urgency is worsened by the fact that private and philanthropic investments in product development for NTDs have also decreased.
Because NTDs disproportionately affect the “bottom billion” or individuals earning less than $1.25 per day, there is essentially no market demand for new NTD tools, so the private sector is unlikely to fund these projects. Dr. Moran, director of Policy Cures, believes that governments must step up to the plate, saying that “if [governments] want products for neglected diseases, they must fund product development as well as basic research.”
-Morgan McCloskey, global health intern