Report: U.S. can do more to support global health R&D

In the midst of flat funding for many federal programs as well as last year's across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration, global health advocacy groups say Congress needs to adopt a long-term budget solution to sustain R&D activities for new drugs, vaccines and other health technologies to combat global health threats.

Though the U.S. is the largest single investor in global health R&D, its investment has declined since 2009, according to a report delivered to Congress March 27 by a group of more than 30 nonprofit organizations known as the Global Health Technologies Coalition. The report seeks a stronger role for the FDA in delivering new products for neglected diseases and calls on Congress to approve the 21st Century Global Health Technology Act introduced in April 2013, which is aimed at bolstering the U.S. Agency for International Development's product development.

The report also recommends that the fiscal 2015 budget fund the FDA at $4.7 billion--an increase of $358 million, or 8%, above fiscal 2014 levels and the same level as the president's budget proposal--and the NIH at $32 billion, about 5% more than the president's proposed $30.2 billion for the agency.

Though a budget agreement earlier this year restored NIH's budget by $1 billion, the total funding for 2014 was $950 million less than the agency received in 2012.

"R&D can dramatically change the landscape for effective and cost-effective therapy in the developing world," said Dr. Dan Hartman, director of integrated development of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at a March 27 briefing on Capital Hill.

Between 2000 and 2010, federal funding helped develop and deliver 53% of the 45 vaccines, drugs, diagnostics and devices to the global health market. The report found that U.S. funding has also helped fund 200 out of the current 365 global health products moving through the R&D pipeline.

The report says the U.S. government could take a bigger role in moving new therapies to market by doing things like giving the FDA the authority to accommodate priority review of health products for all neglected diseases under its Priority Review Voucher program. Also recommended in the report are incentives and financing mechanisms for private companies to contribute to new and continuing R&D efforts.

- read the report

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