Fixing what’s broken and breaking what’s fixed . . . We’re reading about WHO and Ebola, India and its role in global health

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NewWWRUN health agency urges better global preparedness against future outbreaks – It was the end of March when Ebola was confirmed in Conakry, Guinea, the first time in the 40-year recorded history of the highly contagious and deadly disease that an outbreak had occurred in a capital city. By June, the outbreak had spread to Liberia’s capital and across Sierra Leone. Now, Dr. Margaret Chan of the World Health Organization, which did not declare the West Africa Ebola outbreak was an international crisis until the first week of August, has vowed changes to the agency’s responses to outbreaks and emergencies, noting that the “volatile microbial world will always deliver surprises.” While it would be more reassuring without the reference to a disaster that unfurled over months as a “surprise,” change, in an organization criticized for putting protocol over evidence and epidemiology is what health responders in West Africa have been calling for.

Dear President Obama . . . Will you stand with us for public health . . .?
The India patent office rejection a couple of weeks ago of Gilead’s application to prevent generic drug companies from producing affordable — rather than five-figure-priced — versions of its hepatitis C cure, was the latest reminder of that country’s role in making access to life-saving medicines possible around the world. Last week, as a send-off for President Obama’s three day trip to India, during which tonight he is scheduled to host a meeting of Indian and American business heads, 12 humanitarian and health groups are reminding him what’s at stake. That includes the generic antiretroviral drugs produced in India that comprise most of the treatment purchased and supplied by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDs Relief, and medicines for heart disease, cancer, and other life-threatening illnesses — including hepatitis C that millions of people worldwide would not otherwise have access to.  They express their concern about pharmaceutical industry efforts to weaken India’s patent law, and about proposals for a bilateral investment treaty with the country that could increase big drug companies’ ability to pressure generic producers. In the meantime, Gilead, which has promised to appeal the India patent court’s ruling, is announcing plans to expand its arrangement with some manufacturers in India to produce another version of its hepatitis treatment, in an arrangement global health advocates call “managed competition” rather than open competition.

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