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Trop Med Int Health. 2011 Jun;16(6):662-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3156.2011.02778.x. Epub 2011 Apr 7.

Relative and absolute addressability of global disease burden in maternal and perinatal health by investment in R&D.

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UQ Centre for Clinical Research, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.


Maternal and perinatal disease accounts for nearly 10% of the global burden of disease, with only modest progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Despite a favourable new global health landscape in research and development (R&D) to produce new drugs for neglected diseases, R&D investment in maternal/perinatal health remains small and non-strategic. Investment in obstetric R&D by industry or the not-for-profit sector has lagged behind other specialties, with the number of registered pipeline drugs only 1-5% that for other major disease areas. Using a Delphi exercise with maternal/perinatal experts in global and translational research, we estimate that equitable pharmaceutical R&D and public sector research funding over the next 10-20 years could avert 1.1% and 1.9% of the global disease burden, respectively. In contrast, optimal uptake of existing research would prevent 3.0%, justifying the current focus on health service provision. Although R&D predominantly occurs in high-income countries, more than 98% of the estimated reduction in disease burden in this field would be in developing countries. We conclude that better pharmaceutical and public sector R&D would prevent around 1/3 and 2/3, respectively, of the disease burden addressable by optimal uptake of existing research. Strengthening R&D may be an important complementary strategy to health service provision to address global maternal and perinatal disease burden.

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