January 30, 2012
Pharmaceutical Companies Come Together To Fight Neglected Diseases
International private and public partners announced a joint effort on Monday to combat 10 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020.
The new coordinated push is aimed at accelerating progress toward eliminated or controlling 10 NTDs and improving the lives of the 1.4 billion people affected by them.
Governments from the U.S., U.K. and U.A.E. are teaming up with 13 pharmaceutical companies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank and other global health organizations to sustain or expand existing drug donation programs to meet demand through 2020.
The group said they would share expertise and compounds to accelerate research and development of new drugs, and provide over $785 million to strengthen drug distribution and implantation programs.
"This innovative approach must serve as a model for solving other global development challenges and will help millions of people build self-sufficiency and overcome the need for aid," Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said in a statement.
The Gates Foundation announced a five-year, $363 million commitment to support NTD product and operational research. Gates also announced last Thursday that the foundation would be donating $750 million to help fight AIDS through the Global Fund to Fight Aids program.
The World Health Organization (WHO) unveiled a new strategy to fight NTDs, including a roadmap for implementation that sets targets for what can be achieved by the end of the decade.
"The efforts of WHO, researchers, partners, and the contributions of industry have changed the face of NTDs. These ancient diseases are now being brought to their knees with stunning speed," Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO, said in a press release. "With the boost to this momentum being made today, I am confident almost all of these diseases can be eliminated or controlled by the end of this decade."
In the largest coordinated effort yet to fight diseases like Guinea worm disease, leprosy and sleeping sickness, the group promised to give an average of 1.4 billion treatments each year to those in need.
Experts say that a billion people are affected by NTDs around the world, including over 500 million children.
The WHO said in a 2010 report on NTDs that while the diseases cost billions of dollars in lost productivity, they are often ignored because they affect mainly poor people and do not offer a profitable market for drug makers.
Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, said speaking on behalf of the CEOs of the 13 pharmaceutical companies: "Many companies and organizations have worked for decades to fight these horrific diseases. But no one company or organization can do it alone."
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