Curing policy at Policy Cures

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Policy Cures, led by Director Mary Moran,  has relaunched as an independent organization. I went to the relaunch at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in London last week to find out more.

Policy Cures first launched in 2004 and has previously been affiliated with a couple of institutions, including The George Institute for International Health and the London International Development Centre, but is now independent. The 11-strong staff team are split between  Sydney and London.

The mission of Policy Cures is unchanged by the relaunch. According to Mary Moran, the overall aim is to ‘cure policy’ and to do this she is leading a team to ‘build an interdisciplinary organization to develope access to medicines’.  Policy Cures is particularly interested in helping to speed new products such as drugs, vaccines and diagnostics for diseases  including malaria, TB, sleeping sickness, helminth infections and pneumonia to those who need them.  Sadly, the science sometimes outstrips the pace at which key decisions are made that would make new products available to healthcare workers and patients in many countries.

Mary laid out one of the main problems in a brief presentation.  She thinks that because we typically lack new products to tackle diseases, when products do become available, it takes those who make policy by surprise. For example, a new automated molecular test recently became available for TB, but policy is not in place to make it available to those who might benefit from it: in effect, policy is lagging behind the generation of tools by scientists. These delays cost lives — for every case of MDR TB that is not detected, on average 15 people per year are infected.

According to Mary, the new test was 5 y in the pipeline and she is adamant that there must be a way to speed up the accompanying studies that are required by policy makers – these might include cost-effectiveness studies for example or development of WHO guidelines.  A rough estimate presented was that it may take 2-3 years to roll out this potentially valuable diagnostic machine. Whilst no-one has a crystal ball that can predict at very early stages which new products will be effective,  it will be interesting to see how Policy Cures can contribute to speeding up crucial policy decisions.

Mary commented that a new stream of policy is needed, and she termed this  ‘applied health policy’. This type of approach would be 1) integrated with innovators and researchers and 2), integrated with innovators of implementation technologies such as mobile phones and 3) focused on pragmatic advice for countries including cost-effectiveness analyses.

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