Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Science Policy Around the Web – May 12, 2015

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By: Daniël P. Melters, Ph.D.

Image credit: money faucet from Gts/Shutterstock

Science Funding

Uncertainly about science funding in the UK after Tories win elections

An outright victory for the Tories (conservatives) in the recent general election in the United Kingdom was unexpected based on poll-results. This means an end to the previous governing coalition and five more years for David Cameron as Prime Minister. One question that remains is what will this change in power mean for science in the UK? One of the spear points of the Tories’ program are austerity measures to reduce the deficit ($46B). Notably, no promise was made to protect science funding, even after five years of a frozen science budget. In addition, a high turnover of Members of Parliament (MP) and loss of MPs who favor science in combination with the rise of the Scottish National Party is suspected to result in policy focused on regional projects. The biggest fear is the the upcoming referendum on whether the UK will stay in the European Union (EU). Leaving the EU would be a major set-back for UK science research as about 20% of its science funding comes from the EU. The new Minister for Universities and Science is Jo Johnson, the brother of London Mayor Boris Johnson. Although not much is known where he stands on the topic of science and research, Mr. Johnson is thought to be supportive of the EU and he as spoken out on the importance of allowing students to come to the UK.

At the same time, fellow EU-member Greece has decided to use the money allocated for funding Greek science for paying for public salaries and the US House Science Committee in the US has suggested to cut NASA’s earth science budget. On the other hands, some in US congress have called for a doubling of the NIH budget, making this a very volatile time for scientific research funding around the globe. (Elizabeth Gibney, Nature News)

Global Health

Liberia is Ebola free as complications for survivors become apparent

In December 2013, one-year Emile Ouamouno died in a small village in Guinea. This is believed to be patient zero for the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Over 14 thousand laboratory-confirmed cases (and many more suspected) have been reported to date and 11 thousand people have died. The last confirmed case of Ebola in Liberia was on March 28th, 2015. On May 9th the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Liberia Ebola-free, the first of the three principally affected countries to successfully quell the epidemic. This is a monumental achievement for a country that reported the highest number of deaths and was made possible by community-driven societal changes around especially mourning rituals. At the peak of the epidemic in August/September 2014, Liberia reported about 400 new cases each week.

At the same time as the good news from Liberia, other reports are emerging about the many survivors of Ebola. Dr. Ian Crozier, an American volunteer with the WHO who worked in a treatment ward in Sierra Leone and who survived Ebola with treatment in the United States, has returned to Emory University Hospital. He was considered cured two months ago, but fading eye sight, intense pain, and soaring pressure in his left eye appears to be the result from a persistent Ebola infection. Besides eye problems, Crozier continues to suffer from debilitating joint and muscle pain, deep fatigue, and hearing loss. Similar problems are being reported by survivors in West Africa. The impact of these newly observed complications on society remain to be seen, besides the trauma from the Ebola epidemic and feared secondary wave of other infectious diseases. (WHO; Denise Grady, The New York Times)

Global Drug Policy

Expensive new hepatitis C and cancer drugs make it on WHO Essential Medicines List

Every two years since 1977, a committee of experts of the World Health Organization (WHO) select medications that are considered minimum medicines for a basic health-care system, based on their efficacy, safety record, and cost effectiveness. Currently, over 400 drugs and vaccines have been selected, especially drugs that target the most pressing needs in developing nations. On May 8th, this year’s Essential Medicines List (EML) was released and includes five new drugs that target hepatitis C virus (HCV) and 16 new cancer medications. Most notably, new members on this list are the pricey anti-HCV drug sofosbuvir and the anti-leukemia drug Imatinib. In the United States, a full course treatment with these drugs will cost more than $84,000 per patient. Many developing nations use the EML to help determine in which drugs they have to invest. Nevertheless, Magrini, an Italian pharmocologist who oversees the EML, says that it still takes too long for many life-saving medicines to become widely available. The EML highlights the gaps. For example, sofosbuvir’s manufacturer, Gilead Sciences Inc. of Foster City, California, sells the drug to Egypt at a discount and allows generic manufacturers in India to produce and sell in 91 poorer countries. Yet advocates criticize Gilead for not offering deals to over 50 middle-income countries. Magrini says that the list is clever tool to build momentum to lower pricing for essential drugs worldwide. (

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

May 12, 2015 at 10:50 am

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