Tuesday, 15 May 2012
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Brazil: Collaboration on Health – May 2012
British Consulate General Sao Paulo
After a hiatus following the Bilateral Year of Health 5 years ago, co-operation is growing again. A UK/Brazil memorandum of understanding encourages closer cooperation. Some UK life science companies in Brazil are successful, notably GSK; but there remain significant obstacles where our companies need continued help..
1. The past year has seen an upsurge in cooperation on health between the UK and Brazil in both commercial and policy spheres. This has been supported by UKTI activity, commercial diplomacy and high-level visits in both directions.
Simon Burns, Minister of State for Health, visited Brazil 19-21 October 2011. In addition to representing the UK at the WHO’s Conference on the Social Determinants of Health, he conducted a bilateral programme to encourage collaboration between the UK and Brazil. Central to this was a bilateral with Brazilian Minister of Health Alexandre Padilha, during which Padilha signed a UK/Brazil Memorandum of Understanding, designed to increase the exchange of best practice and expertise to enhance the effectiveness of both countries’ health systems (the MoU was earlier signed in London by the Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley). Mr Burns also met Anvisa (Brazilian health surveillance agency) and raised UK companies’ concerns about the problems companies are experiencing in dealing with it and entering the Brazilian market.
Following the visit, a team of specialists from the UK and Brazil participated in a two-day workshop in Brasilia to develop an action plan under the auspices of the new MoU. Areas covered by the action plan include:
emergency preparedness in the health sector for major events, with a focus on the Olympic Games;
public health promotion and surveillance;
primary healthcare, with a focus on care of the elderly.
To maintain momentum, a steering committee will meet annually to review progress under the MoU and to develop a workplan for subsequent years. Activity is already taking place as a result. February 2012 saw two technical visits to the UK. A group of Anvisa technicians met with world-class UK institutions including the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as well as the London-based European Medical Agency to share expertise in post-marketing surveillance, in-vitro devices, and counterfeit medicines and devices amongst other areas. The visit also discussed an internship in MHRA for Anvisa staff.
Enhanced engagement with Anvisa is important for UK business. Time-consuming registration requirements put off many from coming to Brazil at all. Those who do make the leap are burdened with extra costs to register their products here (there is no recognition of EU or US standards), which is particularly problematic for SMEs. Reducing these barriers will require persistence over the long term, but regular contact with Anvisa personnel and exposure to UK expertise is movement in the right direction.
The second group exchanged technical expertise in influenza research, and will develop exchange programmes for post-doctoral research between the well renowned Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) based in Rio de Janeiro and the UK’s Health Protection Agency.
Also in February, a group of Brazilian hospitals travelled to the UK to exchange best practice on sustainable healthcare, such as transparent administration, sustainable construction, treatment of hospital waste, reduction of carbon emissions and medical technologies with less environmental impact, with input from the NHS sustainable development unit.
Despite the difficulties of the market, we have seen a stream of visits from UK life science companies. With medical-device imports to Brazil totalling around £350 million each year, Brazil offers UK life science companies valuable opportunities. Over the last year the UKTI life science team helped 33 companies enter the market, with some notable successes.. Some leading Brazilian healthcare organisations have agreed to link and support members to build medical technology innovation partnerships, based upon three strands of Business to Business, Business to Academia, and Training.
A particular UK success is GlaxoSmithKline, which implemented their global innovation programme “Trust in Science” in Brazil, aimed at fostering sustainable scientific partnerships, accelerating translational research, and creating new links between industry and the scientific community. GSK has celebrated agreements with CNPq and FAPESP (research funding agencies), Fiocruz and the National Cancer Institute. With Fiocruz, GSK is working on a dengue vaccine, which could be a major breakthrough for health in Brazil and many other countries.
Activities planned for next year include a four-day Brazil/UK Health Systems Symposium in London with participation from Simon Burns, Minister of State for Health, and other senior figures; a large number of UK companies exhibiting at the Hospitalar tradeshow in Sao Paulo in May 2012; and the visit a month later of a group of universities looking to offer technical medical courses in Brazil will maintain momentum on the commercial side. Commercial diplomacy funds have been secured to bring UK companies and hospitals to Brazil to build on the health sustainability partnerships initiated during the recent mission to the UK. Brazilian officials have also been invited to observe the Paralympics Games and Jubilee to benefit from UK best practice in health preparedness for major events (including areas such as medical services and outbreak alert and response) in preparation for the Olympics and World Cup in Brazil.
Brazil has expertise in areas relevant to the NHS and wider health policy in the UK, including management of a decentralised health system, the Family Health Programme and measles immunisation. Both countries face similar health issues, including lifestyle and chronic diseases, obesity, and an ageing population. The enhanced co-operation agreed during the Ministerial visit and subsequent activity provides a structure within which the two countries can access the other’s experiences. The inclusion of concrete actions with a clear timeframe should prevent slippage, while strengthening of links at the political level and the enhancement of the UK’s broader reputation in healthcare is also helping to open opportunities for UK companies.
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