An interesting article on neglected tropical diseases — and a recent report from the WHO — sourced from World Health Advocacy.
First WHO report on NTDs highlights ongoing commitment of innovative drug companies
The World Health Organization today released their first report on neglected tropical diseases – diseases that affect mainly poor people and cost billions of dollars in lost productivity annually.
“Good medicines are available for many of these diseases, and research continues to document their safety and efficacy when administered individually or in combination,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “Generous drug donations by pharmaceutical companies have helped relieve some of the financial barriers and allowed programmes to scale up coverage.”
Leading research-based pharmaceutical companies have already provided high-quality medicines free of charge for hundreds of millions of poor people suffering from such diseases, mainly in remote areas of Latin America, Asia and Africa, according to the WHO. In coordination with the launch of this report, additional long-term industry commitments to combating neglected tropical diseases were announced today, including:
- Novartis renewed its commitment to donate an unlimited supply of multidrug therapy and loose clofazimine for leprosy and its complications.
- GlaxoSmithKline announced a new five-year commitment to expand their donation of albendazole through WHO, in addition to their current donation for lymphatic filariasis to treat school-age children for soil transmitted helminthiases in Africa. The commitment includes 400 million doses per year for this purpose.
- Sanofi-aventis has agreed to renew its support for the WHO programme to eliminate sleeping sickness, and its support for Buruli ulcer, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis for the next five years.
This continued support will ensure that necessary resources will be available also to move forward in combating leishmaniasis, Buruli ulcer and Chagas disease. In addition:
- Bayer has started discussions with WHO on how to evolve their current commitment to fight sleeping sickness and Chagas disease.
- EISAI has committed to work towards the global elimination of lymphatic filariasis by providing diethylcarbamazine (DEC) and
- Johnson&Johnson has recently also announced expanding its donation of mebendazole to supply up to 200 million treatments per year for treatment of intestinal worms in children
Despite these commitments from innovative drug makers, Dr. Chan added, “Production of medicines used to treat NTDs must be made more attractive to companies that manufacture generic pharmaceuticals.” It is important to note that many of these products are off- patent, but generic companies have not invested in their production.
“Neglected tropical diseases blight the lives of a billion people worldwide and threaten the health of millions more,” said Dr. Chan in the report.
The WHO report provides an overview of 17 neglected tropical diseases and provides details on their prevalence, distribution, economic and social impact as well as prevention and control strategies. Examples of these diseases include:
- Lymphatic filariasis – a mosquito-borne disease that causes intestinal worms and disfigures limbs and genital parts, costing an estimated $1.3 billion a year in lost productivity in Africa and South East Asia.
- Dengue fever – about 1 million confirmed cases of dengue are reported annually to WHO. The aggregated annual economic cost of dengue was estimated to be at least US$ 587 million. Preliminary adjustment for underreporting could raise this total to US$ 1 800 million
- Trachoma – in 57 countries where trachoma is endemic millions of people have irreversible visual impairment and blindness caused by the disease, and more than 40 million people are in need of treatment. The economic cost of trachoma in terms of lost productivity is estimated at US$ 2.9 billion annually.
- Chagas disease continues to persist in the Region of the Americas, but the estimated number of infected people has fallen from approximately 20 million in 1981 to around 10 million in 2009. A recent study in Colombia estimated an average expected annual cost per patient with chronic Chagas disease of US$ 1028. On average, the estimated lifetime cost of treating a patient with chronic Chagas disease in Colombia is US$ 11 619.
“The involvement of the pharmaceutical industry in NTDs, and subsequent donations made to support their control, have increased access to high-quality medicines free of charge for hundreds of millions of poor people,” according to the report. “The increasing willingness and commitment of local and global communities of partners to work with endemic countries have brought resources, innovation, expertise and advocacy to efforts to overcome NTDs. Intersectoral collaboration, involving education, nutrition and agriculture, has reinforced NTD control.”
Filed under: Commentary on news & events, Public health, World Health Organization | Tagged: access to medicines, global health, least-developed countries, neglected diseases, Public health, research-based pharmaceutical industry, World Health Organization | Leave a Comment »