Most of the research into an AIDS vaccine focuses on one that could be marketed in North America and western Europe, despite the fact that more than 90% of AIDS infections are in the developing world, a new report from the World Bank says.
The World Development Report 2000/2001, released by the World Bank this month, says that progress towards a vaccine has been slow, partly because of the lack of a financial incentive.
“There are too few market incentives to invest in an AIDS vaccine that would be effective in developing countries,” it says. Africa, for instance, accounts for only 1% of world drug sales, says the report. Consequently, international investment in AIDS vaccine development is quite low, amounting to $300m to $500m (£214m to £305m) annually.
Only about $10-25m is spent annually on developing a vaccine for the virus subtypes and health systems of developing countries, says the report. In contrast, some $2bn is spent annually on research and development for AIDS treatment for three million people with HIV infection and AIDS in the developed world.
According to estimates from the World Health Organization, of the $50-60bn spent annually on health research worldwide, only 10% goes for the diseases affecting 90% of the world's people. Between 1975 and 1997, of the 1233 new medicines patented, only 1% were for tropical diseases.
“The effect of research and spending gaps is devastating: malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS cause 5 million deaths a year, most of them in developing countries,” says the world development report.