After several days of negotiations, the 128th WHO Executive Board has accepted the nomination of Paul Herrling to the new WHO Consultative Expert Working Group on R&D Financing, despite the fact that Herrling is an executive of Novartis, and is the author of the IFPMA/Novartis/FRIND proposal and the co-author of the PDP Plus proposal, which will be considered by the CEWG.
The Herrling nomination was opposed by nine public health and development groups. (More context here, here and here).
During the negotiations, the EURO region countries threatened to block the creation of the CEWG unless the Herrling appointment was accepted, and the EURO members claim the US had promised to retaliate against developing country member nominations if Herrling’s name was withdrawn. KEI asked the US delegation about this, but did not receive a response.
At this point, the CEWG will go forward, and consider the industry backed and authored proposals for subsidies on R&D for neglected diseases, with its principle author among its membership. This is not a fine moment for the WHO as an institution, as the action reinforces negative stereotypes about the WHO being penetrated by the pharmaceutical industry, and insensitive to actual and perceived conflicts of interests. I am quite disappointed the Obama Administration was among those insisting that obvious and highly inappropriate conflicts of interest be ignored.