In its annual policy report, the Global Health Technologies Coalition highlighted the need for U.S. policymakers to continue to support global health research and development.
On the heels of the Ebola outbreak, which itself highlighted the necessity of investment for new technologies, drugs and vaccines, the report recommends that Congress “provide robust and stable funding for global health research and development, as well as allocate additional resources for global health emergencies as needed.”
According to the report, the U.S. government funds the majority of the world’s global health research and development. It allocates more than $1 billion annually for this purpose to the NIH, the CDC, the FDA, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of Defense.
“This year is particularly interesting because budget battles in Washington have caused many problems for continued, sustained funding for research and development, at a time when scientific advancements are really poised to deliver a lot of new and exciting tools and technologies,” Erin Will Morton, director of the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), told Infectious Disease News. “We are at a crossroads right now.”
In addition to the Ebola outbreak, the increasing antimicrobial resistance threat has demonstrated challenges in research and development and underscored the threat of infectious diseases globally, the GHTC said in the report.
From 2000 to 2010, the government doubled its annual commitment to global health research and development. But after peaking in 2009, U.S. funding has declined. Morton said the report’s most important point is the need for sustained funding and investment.
“Policymakers think in short-term funding cycles in an annual funding process,” Morton said. “This process has been constantly interrupted over the past few years by sequestration and bigger budget battles that are well above global health. What we need is a long-term commitment: sustained investment that doesn’t ebb and flow every year.”
The GHTC recommends also that Congress allocate additional resources for global health emergencies as they arise. It highlighted some diseases that have already entered the U.S., including Chagas’ disease, chikungunya and dengue.
“These are examples that show global health isn’t just overseas, it’s everywhere, including developed countries,” Morton said. “If we don’t prepare ourselves as a country or even globally, we will be less prepared for the next crisis that comes forward. Being prepared to address those emerging threats are what could be lost if we don’t continue these investments in a sustained fashion.”
An important recommendation within the report is for the U.S. to improve coordination and alignment between government agencies that are involved in global health research and development. According to Morton, the USAID does a significant amount of late-stage research and development, and the DoD is the only agency that performs research and development from the basic science level and through to product development.
“Having better coordination between the agencies will allow everyone to know when a product is moving through the pipeline,” Morton said. “It will allow research and product development to move from one agency to another so that it gets into the hands of people who need it.”
Among the recommendations is that the FDA “adopt a more strategic and coordinated approach to advancing its engagement in global health regulatory issues.” This includes developing an internal capacity for global health, aligning its centers that work in this area and improving its partnerships with other U.S. agencies and global entities.
For fiscal year 2016, the GHTC recommends that Congress appropriate the following: $469 million to the CDC’s Center for Global Health and $699 million for the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases; $2.8 billion for the FDA; at least $32 billion for the NIH; more than $10 billion for global health programs at the State Department and the USAID; and strong funding to the DoD to support global health research and development. – by Emily Shafer
Global Health Technology Coalition. 2015 policy report: Meeting the challenge, seizing the opportunity: US leadership can advance global health R&D. www.ghtcoalition.org. Accessed March 26, 2015.