EB142: KEI statement on the Global Strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and IP

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Executive Board is expected to discuss agenda item 3.7 on the Global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property either on Wednesday, 24 January 2018 or Thursday, 25 January 2018.

Non-state actors in official relations with the WHO are permitted to make statements; these statements are capped at 300 words. KEI’s intervention on this item can be found below.

Executive Board 142
Agenda Item: 3.7 Global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property

Knowledge Ecology International welcomes the report of the overall programme review of the global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property, and the proposed strategic pathway to align and strengthen the implementation of the GSPA.

One area of that deserves more attention concerns work on at least two areas where transparency can be enhanced: R&D costs, and drug prices.

In a January 16, 2018 speech by the Commissioner of the US FDA, tiled “Fostering Transparency to Improve Public Health,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, said,

“Transparency can be a powerful tool for innovation.”

Gottlieb’s address concerned measures to make clinical trial data more transparency. He said that with safeguards in place:

“transparency is a tide that can lift all boats,”

and will

“enable stakeholders to better address common challenges in the product development process”.

The issue of transparency of R&D costs, pricing and even marketing costs have been addressed in several bills pending before the U.S. Congress, and in several state legislatures, and transparency measures were among the key recommendations of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel.

Many governments lack the leverage by themselves to insist on transparency, and global norms may be needed.

Better, data, particularly on R&D costs and access to new drugs, is needed to evaluate the reasonableness of prices and the efficacy of R&D incentives, including the new business models that have been proposed that would delink R&D incentives from drug prices.

Finally, we think it is time to revise the mandate of the GSPA, as regards the scope of diseases. Growing concerns over the innovation gaps and the prices of and access to new treatments for cancer, diabetes, and rare diseases should be more plainly included in the WHO’s work.


Thiru Balasubramaniam is the Geneva Representative of Knowledge Ecology International. Prior to his post as KEI’s Geneva Representative, Mr. Balasubramaniam worked at Health Action International in Colombo and at the World Health Organization in Geneva as a technical officer in the Department of Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy dealing with access to medicines and intellectual property. He began his career with CPTech working on issues related to health care and intellectual property. Mr. Balasubramaniam holds a B.A. in Economics and a Minor in European History from the University of Pennsylvania.