The 2007 World Health Assembly (WHA) concluded on May 23 with the adoption of a controversial resolution calling on the World Health Organization (WHO) to become more involved in encouraging member states to use world trade mechanisms to access cheaper generic drugs.

The motion, which had been presented by the Brazilian delegation, was adopted by the full Assembly apart from the USA, which had walked out of the discussions.

The resolution refers to the work of the Intergovernmental Working Group on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (IGWG-PHI), which is tasked with drawing up concrete plans aimed at boosting R&D in neglected disease areas by next year’s WHA.

The final wording of the agreed resolution requires the WHO to provide, “as appropriate, upon request, in collaboration with other competent international organizations, technical and policy support” to countries which intend to make use of the flexibilities contained within the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) “and other international agreements in order to promote access to pharmaceutical products, and to implement the Doha ministerial Declaration on the TRIPs Agreement and Public Health and other WTO instruments.”

It also calls on the WHO to encourage proposals and discussion at the IGWG on “a range of incentive mechanisms including also addressing the linkage of the cost of research and development and the price of medicines.”

The US delegation said that it could not accept the resolution and that while it would not block consensus it wanted to disassociate itself from it. WHO Director General Margaret Chan told the Assembly that she noted the delegates’ desire to move faster with the IGWG process and that she is “fully committed” to it. The Group is due to hold its next meeting in November.