A generous dose: why India should quickly start funding non-profit drug-discovery organisations – ET Prime

A generous dose_ why India should quickly start funding non-profit drug-discovery organisations - ET

I was not convinced about the write up that appeared yesterday.

The donors should not bundle together to start dictating the health “reforms” or the agenda that comes with it. I have a lingering fear that they want to access influence under the garb of money. Therefore, I am happy that the government does not see the same as the “civil society” groups would like it to be seen. We have had enough troubles from the non-governmental organisations masquerading for people’s benefits whilst clogging up developmental projects.

India may have graduated to a middle-income country, but still its investment in drug discovery through such models remains low. This is despite Indian generic companies’ large-scale involvement in such programmes as manufacturing partners.

Meanwhile back home, the administration has neither supported the R&D efforts of generic companies, nor tried to make its mark as a donor country. It has, therefore, invited criticism stating that the country uses its patent system as a threat to keep the prices of new drugs lower without having to invest in innovation. Indian philanthropists, too, have stayed away from such initiatives.

“I have always wondered what it will take for Indian philanthropists to invest in health innovation. Contributions from middle-income countries is the need of the hour,” says Sandeep Juneja, senior vice-president, TB Alliance. Currently, an Indonesian private fund, run by the country’s wealthy entrepreneurs, is one of the donors of TB Alliance.

Tuberculosis is a public health concern, but the problem is one of the users leaving the medications once their symptoms are okay. WHO funded Directly Observed Treatment Short-Course (DOTS) was actually a revolution in the thought process in otherwise moribund health bureaucracy as it laid emphasis on the community healthcare. (It is the same thing I have been pushing for in preventive healthcare too).

In fact, there should be legislation to recoup fines from people who leave the medications mid-way leading to the development of resistance. They are a public health hazard. I can almost visualise the “civil society” groups foaming at the proposal.

Instead of expending resources (under the garb of “philanthropy”), these organisations should expand the use of feet on the ground, identify lacunae in delivery and pursue those who are left behind. In parallel, they should push for legislation.

I don’t see that happening anytime- it is not “sexy” enough to work out in the field. Sitting in the plush offices to release media bites is easier.

We are better off than these organisations.


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A generous dose: why India should quickly start funding non-profit drug-discovery organisations – ET Prime