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Patricia Van Arnum was executive editor of Pharmaceutical Technology.
The pharmaceutical industry weighs in on WHO global health initiatives, including R&D for diseases of the developing world, a global vaccine action plan, neglected tropical diseases, and counterfeit medicines.
The Sixty-fifth World Health Assembly adopted 21 resolutions and three decisions on a broad range of health issues. The six days of discussions, held last month, involved nearly 3000 delegates, including health ministers and senior health officials from the 194 member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as representatives from civil society and other stakeholders.
“As challenges, let me mention noncommunicable diseases and ageing, maternal and child health, under- and over- nutrition, the eradication of polio, and health demands during humanitarian emergencies,” said Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, in a May 26, 2012, WHO press release. Chan also was re-appointed to a second five-year term as WHO Director-General. “As opportunities, let me mention immunization, and the decade of vaccines, and the new multisectoral strategies made possible when we take a social determinants approach.” At the meeting, delegates expressed broad acceptance of the proposed five categories: communicable diseases, noncommunicable diseases, health through the life-course, health systems, and preparedness, surveillance, and response, according to the WHO release.
Outlining progress and initiatives
UN Millennium Development Goals. Member states endorsed the report on the progress and achievements of the health-related United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and health goals after 2015. While the pace of progress has accelerated in many member states, it was also acknowledged that more still needs to be done in the remaining three years to achieve the goals, according to the WHO release. A second report on The Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health, established at the request of the United Nations Secretary-General in the context of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, presented 10 recommendations to improve accountability in countries and globally. The focus is on the 75 countries, which together account for more than 95% of all maternal and child deaths in the world. Many countries and global partners have made specific commitments to accelerate action toward the achievement of MDG 4 (reduce child mortality) and MDG 5 (improve maternal health).
Noncommunicable diseases. The Health Assembly adopted several resolutions and decisions on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Delegates approved the development of a global monitoring framework for the prevention and control of NCDs, including indicators and a set of global targets. Member states agreed to adopt a global target of a 25% reduction in premature mortality from NCDs, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases, by 2025.
Another resolution focuses on strengthening NCD policies to promote active ageing. The resolution urges member states to encourage the active participation of older people in society, increase healthy ageing, and promote the highest standard of health and well-being for older persons by addressing their needs.
The building of partnerships at national and global levels was discussed by member states as an important way to prevent NCDs through action involving other sectors than health to prevent premature deaths and to reduce exposure to risk factors for NCDs, mainly tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity. Delegates also received a report on the progress of the implementation of the global action plan for the prevention of avoidable blindness and visual impairment.
Pandemic flu. Member states acknowledged that the pandemic influenza preparedness framework is a crucial development for global health security, based on the lessons from the 2009 influenza pandemic. Delegates recognized that industry and other partners play important roles in the development of vaccines to counter outbreaks.Delegates agreed on a 70% and 30% share of resources between preparedness and response respectively, but that this would be regularly reviewed. They welcomed the role of the framework’s advisory group, but stressed the need for extra resources – both human and financial – to support WHO capacity and leadership, according to the WHO release
R&D. The Health Assembly also acknowledged the report of the Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development: Financing and Coordination containing recommendations for securing new funds for health research and development on diseases that affect people in developing countries. It adopted a resolution to hold member states’ consultations at national, regional, and global levels to analyze the report and the feasibility of the recommendations.
Counterfeit medicines. Delegates also approved a draft resolution on a new member state mechanism proposing international cooperation on substandard, spurious, falsely labeled, falsified or counterfeit (SSFFC) medical products. Many countries stressed the need for strengthening regulatory authorities and the important role that WHO plays in enhancing regional and international networking among the regulators. Emerging channels of distribution such as Internet sales pose a significant threat and require specific solutions. Representatives of nongovernmental organizations and the pharmaceutical sector expressed their support for the mechanism, according to the WHO release.