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Towards equitable access to drugs for diseases of the poor: some new research and development initiatives from India

Date: Thursday 1 November 10.45–12.15
Source: Forum 11
Authors: Sadhana Srivastava, Senior Research Officer, Intellectual Property Rights Unit, Indian Council of Medical Research, India
with K Satyanarayana


With a population of over 1.2 billion, India also accounts for a fifth of global communicable disease burden, with the majority not having access to drugs and other health products. Access to health products depends on many factors, such as successful innovation of new technologies, global and national public-private product development partnerships (PDPs) on high-priority diseases, effective technology management etc. A new thrust and focus is being given in India to addressing this issue by both the public and private sectors with increasing support for research and development (R&D) and also innovative partnerships.

Some such new initiatives include: 1) the New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI); 2) the Pharmaceutical Research and Development Support Fund (PRDSF); 3) the National Jai Vigyan Science and Technology Mission; 4) the Technology Development Board (TDB); 5) the Clinical Trial Initiative.

The NMITLI aims to forge innovative public-private partnerships to catalyze innovation to develop products for diseases of the poor, with a budget of Rs 3000 million (about US$ 65 million). A new molecule for tuberculosis (TB) treatment is undergoing clinical trials. The PRDSF, with Rs 1500 million (about US$ 33 million), is another major initiative for drug development. The National Jai Vigyan Science and Technology Mission has a special focus on the integrated development of new vaccines and diagnostics for cholera, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, TB, malaria and HIV using novel strategies. The TDB supports R&D and also scaling-up of new drug development; a major success being the development of a hepatitis B vaccine. The Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi is currently conducting clinical trials of 10 vaccines and has just set up a Clinical Trial Registry in India to ensure all trials are conducted with complete transparency and comply with all the statutory ethical and regulatory requirements. The Government of India is also promoting R&D for drug development through several incentives, such as increased R&D tax benefits and subsidies to support industry-university partnerships.

The impact of these new initiatives to improve access to new health products will be discussed.