Although conditions such as Guinea worm disease, leprosy and sleeping sickness are not that often making the headlines, the number of patients suffering from such neglected tropical diseases is significant enough. This Monday, these neglected tropical diseases finally will get attention from the big players in pharmaceutics.
Global health organizations, governments and world’s major pharmaceutical companies will meet today to sign a partnership for research and drug donations. The main purpose of the partnership is to eradicate or at least control 10 neglected tropical diseases by 2020.
According to the World Health Organization forum, the 17 neglected tropical diseases are dengue, rabies, blinding trachoma, buruli ulcer, endemic treponematoses, leprosy, chagas disease, human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), leishmaniasis, cysticercosis, drancunculiasis (Guinea worm disease), echinococcosis, food-borne trematode infections, lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), onchocerciasis (river blindness), schistosomiasis (bilharziasis) and soli transmitted helminthiases (intestinal worms).
The pharma group joining the program has agreed to give away 14 billion doses of medicines by the end of this decade alone. In addition, the group has promised to share expertise and work together to invent new treatments and medicines for such diseases.
As stated by the press release, altogether, today, 13 pharmaceutical companies, the U.S. and U.K. governments, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank and officials from NTD-endemic countries “pledged to bring a unique focus to defeating these diseases and to work together to improve the lives of the billion people worldwide affected by neglected tropical diseases.
Margaret Chan, director general for World Health Organization, said that today’s agreement “changes the face” of the neglected tropical diseases. “These ancient diseases are now being brought to their knees with stunning speed”, she said. “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”.
GlaxoSmithKline is among the big players in pharma that signed the agreement. The company’s CEO, Andrew Witty, described the impact of the diseases as “horrific”. “No one company or organization can do it alone. It’s great to have this commitment and it’s even better to have a deadline”.