Center for Global Health R&D Policy Assessment

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Much Ado about NCDs, but what about R&D?

What is the role of R&D in addressing non-communicable diseases in developing countries?

This is a joint post with Aarthi Rao.

Since our interview with Phillip Baker from NCD Alliance, there has been much discussion in the global health community about the growth of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in developing countries. NCDs account for over 63% of deaths in the world today, affecting both poor and high income populations alike, and they have firmly risen to the international policy agenda.

The United Nations (UN) High-Level Meeting on Prevention and Control of NCDs was recently held in New York on September 19-20 to discuss and develop an action-oriented outcome document to address the global burden of NCDs: cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes. This is only the second time in history of the UN that the General Assembly meets on a health issue, the last being HIV/AIDS. This raises an interesting question—can the global health community learn from its experience in managing previous epidemics and curtail NCDs early on? This would require predicting new health needs at the outset and devising strategies to meet them.

From our own perspective, there are persisting questions around the need for health technologies for preventing and treating NCDs in developing countries and the role of R&D. Many advocates have taken on the issue of improving access to existing medicines and vaccines, but do developing countries need any new products that better match the characteristics of NCDs in their populations? Is developing more inherently cheaper technologies necessary, or will bringing down the prices of existing technologies suffice? What are the barriers to developing these products and are there any existing mechanisms such as patent pools, research consortia or financing arrangements that can help facilitate this work? If new technologies are needed, what role will innovators such as those in emerging countries such as India and China play in R&D for NCDs?

Although our own work has focused most closely on neglected diseases, there is a growing dialogue around the interaction between infectious diseases and NCDs and how this affects healthcare delivery. We welcome your thoughts on these evolving issues.

If you’d like to learn more about the UN Summit on NCDs or about NCDs in general, take a look at these helpful resources: