Asset Publisher

Policy & Global Development

R&D: In Quest of Alternative Models

The seminar organised by ISGlobal is part of a project that seeks to engage the scientific community in the debate on access to medicines


One third of the world’s population lacks the necessary medicines, either because they are inexistent or unaffordable. This is a clear sign that the current R&D model is broken. With these words, Gonzalo Fanjul, Policy Analysis Director at ISGlobal – an institute supported by “la Caixa” Foundation- opened the seminar “Science for Patients” that took place at CaixaForum in Barcelona on June 14 and 15. The event forms part of a project funded by the Open Society Foundations, with the goal of promoting the participation of the scientific community in the debate on R&D models and access to medicines.    

For ISGlobal’s General Director, Antoni Plasència, the project opens a series of questions: Are our research results being translated into practical solutions? Are the new medicines affordable? Who is being excluded? What can we do as researchers in the face of a system with obvious limitations?    

From the beginning of the seminar, the participants agreed that the current model does not work and that a change is urgently needed. What is less clear, and was the subject of debate during two days and four round tables, is: which should the alternative model be?  

The first round table criticised the current system, based on economic gains, as one that only investigates in areas and products that are profitable, instead of focusing on health needs. It pointed out that “the pharmaceutical industry is a provider, not a partner,” and that a possible solution would be the distinction by the health system between preferential and non-preferential providers.   

The second round table underlined the need for transparency, particularly regarding clinical trials. Regulatory agencies and research managers are responsible for ensuring greater R&D transparency, and some solutions include enforcing public access to all results issued from public-funded research and establishing a registry and public access to individual results from clinical trials. The importance of building bridges between science and society was also highlighted.  

The panellists of the third round table dispelled some myths related to drug pricing and pointed out that many of the new drugs in the market are much more expensive but not much more effective. The last round table presented alternative solutions to encourage drug innovation, including an initiative that engages students from different universities in finding new drugs for poverty-related diseases (Open Synthesis Network).

“We need to find ways of encouraging the participation of the scientific community in this important debate,” concluded Evangelina Martich, coordinator of the ‘Science for Patients’ Project, after presenting the preliminary results of the surveys and interviews with researchers.