Sunday, April 08, 2012

WHO panel wants health tax to fund research - Proposes country-specific taxes

An expert committee, constituted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), has recommended country-specific taxes to generate funds for research and development (R&D) in the health sector. The options being considered include taxes on activities harmful to health such as alcohol, tobacco and sweet or fatty foods.

The report of the Consultative Expert Working Group on R&D, which has India’s additional health secretary L C Goyal among its members, highlighted two possible taxes, financial transactions tax and tobacco solidarity contribution, which could be used to generate funds to be channelled through an international mechanism to supplement national resources.

“It is our hope that such an international tax could be agreed as part of a commitment by all countries to finance global public goods, including for health and health R&D relevant to developing countries. We noted that our position is that if any international tax is agreed upon, then a proportion of that tax should go to provide support to health services in developing countries and another earmarked for health research and development to meet the needs of developing countries,” the report said.

The working group wanted all countries to commit themselves to spending at least 0.01 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) on government-funded R&D to meet the health needs of developing countries. In addition, the report suggested that developing countries with a potential research capacity should aim to commit 0.05-0.1 per cent of GDP to government-funded total health research and that developed countries should aim similarly to commit 0.15-0.2 per cent of GDP to government-funded health research in general.

The funds are meant to be utilised for capacity-building and technology transfer to developing countries, to promote partnerships and collaborations based on joint agendas, for the development and retention of human resources and expertise, institutional and infrastructure development and sustainable medium/long-term collaborations.

The working group preferred an “open knowledge innovation” model that generates knowledge which is free to use without legal or contractual restrictions. They include mechanisms such as pre-competitive R&D platforms, open source and open access schemes, milestone prizes, equitable licensing, patent pools, etc.

The working group’s report will be presented before the WHO member countries during the forthcoming World Health Assembly next month.

Source: Business Standard, April 8, 2012

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