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Health ministers from G20 nations, meeting for the first time, pledged to work together to combat antimicrobial resistance and improve pandemic preparedness, emphasizing the critical role R&D plays in confronting these global challenges.

Photo: CDC/ Dr. Scott SmithPhoto: CDC/ Dr. Scott SmithHealth ministers from G20 nations, meeting for the first time last Thursday and Friday, pledged to work together to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and improve pandemic preparedness, emphasizing the critical role research and development (R&D) plays in confronting these global challenges.

“By putting global health on the agenda of the G20, we affirm our role in strengthening the political support for existing initiatives and working to address the economic aspects of global health issues,” stated the declaration released Saturday. “Global health risks, such as infectious disease outbreaks and antimicrobial resistance (AMR), have a severe impact on the lives and well-being of millions of people as well as on the global economy. Since these global challenges cannot be addressed by one country, region or sector alone, they call for a coordinated global response.”

In the declaration, G20 health ministers noted the role of new and improved medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, and other health tools in containing infectious disease outbreaks and pledged support for new models for R&D preparedness:

“Research and Development (R&D) are necessary for the timely availability and development of new and improved quality medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and medical equipment for containing emergencies. This requires mobilization of national and international research efforts and facilities, and norms and commitments to share data and samples, in accordance with national legislation, and public health benefits in an inclusive, timely and transparent manner. In addition, sustainable funding and effective international R&D coordination is needed. 

We welcome and support new models for R&D preparedness including the “WHO R&D Blueprint”, the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GLOPID-R) and the “Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)”, which is developing new vaccines for epidemics. We underscore the importance that products emerging from such R&D efforts become accessible to all people in need. In regard to sample and data sharing, we recognize the importance of the WHO global influenza surveillance and response system and Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP) framework, as well as the global initiative on sharing all influenza data.”

The declaration also noted concern about the insufficient R&D pipeline of antimicrobial therapies and highlighted the importance of fostering R&D for new antimicrobials and other vital health tools, citing support for incentive mechanisms and global partnerships to spur technology development:

“We note with concern that the research and development (R&D) pipeline for developing new antimicrobial therapies against life-threatening and highly resistant organisms has been drying up and does not correspond to the global needs in light of growing antimicrobial resistance during past decades. We highlight the importance of fostering R&D for new antimicrobials, alternative therapies, vaccines and rapid-point-of care diagnostics, in particular for priority pathogens as identified by WHO and for tuberculosis.

We recognize the importance of reactivating the R&D pipeline through incentive mechanisms that avoid the reliance on high price/volume combinations. We also recognize the need to promote prudent and responsible use of antimicrobials.

In the Hangzhou G20 Leaders’ Communiqué, G20 leaders called on the WHO, FAO, OIE and OECD to collectively report back in 2017. Their report ‘Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance, Ensuring Sustainable R&D’ will be considered by leaders when they meet on 7-8 July. In this context we support ongoing initiatives, examining push and pull mechanisms that take into account needs of all countries and stress the need for a better coordination of existing initiatives. Furthermore, we note the importance of affordable access to new and existing antimicrobial drugs, diagnostic tools, alternative therapies and vaccines of quality to all patients in need. We will preserve the widest possible therapeutic treatment options through avoiding removal of old antibiotics from the market and work for a sustainable solution to address this issue.

To reinvigorate research and development in science and industry for antimicrobials, we welcome and build on the work of existing global and regional product development partnerships and funding initiatives such as the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP), launched in May 2016 by the WHO and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), UNITAID, the Joint Programming Initiative on AMR (JPIAMR), Combating Antibiotic Resistance Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X), Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), the TB Alliance for new anti-tuberculosis medicines. We commit to broaden the voluntary financial support for these initiatives. We call on other countries, philanthropic organizations, academia and the private sector to support these initiatives. We recognize the necessity of tools such as Target Product Profiles to describe high need products and the importance of prioritization of pathogens, to steer R&D efforts to the most pressing public health needs. Therefore, we welcome the WHO priority pathogen list, which, in addition to existing recommendations for HIV, TB, Malaria and NTDs, should guide R&D for antimicrobials.

We recognise drug-resistant tuberculosis as an important threat and therefore commit to address tuberculosis within interventions for AMR. We acknowledge the need to develop and promote access to new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines to tackle drug-resistant tuberculosis consistent with the WHO End TB Strategy. We recognize the importance of other relevant initiatives and plans, such as the STOP TB Partnership. We welcome the decision by Member States to hold a United Nations High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis in 2018 and the WHO Ministerial Conference on Ending TB in the Sustainable Development Era to be held in Moscow in November 2017.”

The inclusion of supportive language for R&D in the health ministers’ declaration follows calls by GHTC and partners for G20 leaders to commit investment in research, innovation, and development of innovative health technologies to counter threats posed by AMR, poverty-related and neglected diseases, and pandemics.

The health ministers’ declaration will feed into and inform outcomes of the G20 leaders’ summit in Hamburg, Germany, in July, where G20 leaders will release a final joint communique. While GHTC is very pleased with the health ministers’ clear acknowledgment of the importance of R&D, we also caution that this is not the end of our advocacy efforts for the G20. While the health ministers are clearly on board, the advocacy community must keep pushing to ensure that global health R&D does not get lost in the much larger debate that happens for the full, formal G20 communique. We look forward to working with all of our partners to do so.

About the authors

Matthew RobinsonGHTC

Matthew Robinson is a policy and advocacy officer at GHTC who leads the coalition's multilateral advocacy work.

Marissa ChmiolaGHTC

Marissa manages the development and implementation of the coalition’s communications strategies and activities. She oversees GHTC’s digital presence, media outreach, events, and publications. Marissa has over a decade of experience working in communications and more about this author