World View: WHO plans for neglected diseases are wrong

Volume 506 Number 7488 pp265-402  20 February 2014

Nature | Column: World View
WHO plans for neglected diseases are wrong
Research and development into diseases affecting the world’s poorest people will not benefit from the agency’s policy, warns Mary Moran.
19 February 2014

After more than a decade of trying to find a way to fund research on diseases that affect the developing world, the World Health Organization (WHO) made a decisive move last month when it announced its first pilot projects. As Nature reported (see Nature 505, 142; 2014), the WHO hopes that these projects will break the stalemate over research on neglected conditions such as kala-azar, a deadly parasitic disease that afflicts hundreds of thousands of the world’s poorest people.

The WHO is taking giant strides, but they are in the wrong direction. The projects are based on flawed logic and will waste time and money. Worse, this initiative could actively damage existing projects to develop such medicines. The WHO pilot should be stopped.

I do not make these claims lightly. I was involved in the WHO analysis, drafting and recommendations, and know how difficult it has been.

The pilot projects are the culmination of a ten-year negotiation that aimed to achieve two goals: to make commercial medicines more affordable for the developing world, and to stimulate public (non-profit) development of medicines for neglected diseases…