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The World Health Organization (WHO) can help developing countries create and enforce policies to protect and promote public health while fostering innovation. But it must do so with their full participation, says this editorial in The Lancet.

This week (4-8 December) an intergovernmental group convened by the WHO gathered to start designing a global strategy to boost research and development focusing on treatments for leading diseases in poor countries.

But more than half of the WHO's member states were absent from the meeting — and of those missing, a third are among the least developed countries, as identified by the UN.

The group aimed to take forward proposals on patenting and licensing policies so that developing countries can ensure products are relevant to their own settings, follow regulatory frameworks and are available at affordable prices.

Many of its recommendations, however, depend on developing country governments taking the lead, and they cannot be expected to do so if they are not included in the discussion.

Link to full article/paper in The Lancet*
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Reference: The Lancet 368:2034 (2006)