Following the announcement on Monday that 13 pharmaceutical companies, several large non-profit organizations, governments, and U.N. agencies are joining forces to fight neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), Al Jazeera’s “Inside Story” interviewed several experts in the field, asking, “Why have these diseases been neglected for so long? And how effective will the new plans be to counter these diseases and, in turn, alleviate poverty? Is the target date of 2020 set by the initiative realistic to wipe out some of the world’s deadliest conditions? And what is in it for them?” according to the show’s summary. Host James Bays discusses these and other issues with guests Tido Von Schoen-Angerer, director of the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Access Campaign; Lorenzo Savioli, director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases at the WHO; and Mario Ottiglio, associate director of Global Health Policy and Public Affairs at the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (2/1).
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)
This post in KPLU 88.5’s “Humanosphere” blog examines how former President Jimmy Carter gave the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) “a good first shove nearly 30 years ago,” writing, “Neglected diseases like river blindness, Guinea worm, parasitic (lymphatic) elephantiasis and schistosomiasis have been in Carter’s cross hairs since the mid-1980s.” The blog adds, “Few would argue that it has been primarily the work of the Carter Center, carrying on the work of the CDC and others, that has brought the horrible parasitic disease Guinea worm so close to eradication today — from millions of cases in the 1980s down to a little more than a 1,000 last year.” The blog also discusses how William Foege, a former CDC official who is responsible for the smallpox vaccination strategy that helped wipe out the disease, was instrumental in bringing Carter and the Gates family into global health (Paulson, 2/1).
In her “Global Health Blog,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley speaks with GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty about the year-long efforts to bring together the heads of more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies in a large public-private initiative to control or eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). “In terms of what should this industry be doing preferentially, it should be making available the drugs which nobody else has for people in these countries who suffer from these diseases … and we should be committing ourselves to discover more, better drugs for the future, and we’re doing that today and we’re collaborating with others to make it happen quicker,” Witty said (1/31).
Pharmaceutical company heads and global health leaders gathered at a conference on Monday in London to announce the formation of a large public-private partnership to fight neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and endorse the “London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases” (.pdf), in which they pledged to work together and track progress. The following is a summary of two opinion pieces and a blog post in response to the news.
Thirteen pharmaceutical companies; the governments of the U.S., U.K. and United Arab Emirates; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the WHO; the World Bank; the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi); and other global health organizations “announced a new, coordinated push to accelerate progress toward eliminating or controlling 10 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by the end of the decade,” according to a press release (.pdf) from Global Health Strategies. “In the largest coordinated effort to date to combat NTDs,” the partners will provide 14 billion doses of medications by the end of the decade and share expertise and products to speed research and development of new drugs, the press release notes.
When sanitation systems are available and used, the odds of contracting one of a group of diseases, known as soil-transmitted helminths (STH), is cut in half, according to a systemic review and meta-analysis published this week in PLoS Medicine, Examiner.com reports (Herriman, 1/25). “One billion of the world’s people experience a diminished ability to work, learn, and thrive as a result of infection by these parasites — roundworm, whipworm, and hookworm. The resulting losses in quality of life and productivity can trap people in a cycle of poverty and stigma and diminish their ability to care for themselves and their families,” the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog writes.
“The U.K. government has announced a fivefold increase in spending on combating neglected tropical diseases [NTDs] as part of an international effort to help rid the world of a group of infectious diseases that currently affect one billion people and kill more than half a million every year,” BMJ reports (Moszynski, 1/23). “International Development Minister Stephen O’Brien said funding for [NTDs] is to increase from Â£50 million to Â£245 million [approximately $381.5 million] between 2011 and 2015 as part of a global push to eradicate diseases including river blindness and elephantiasis,” the Press Association writes.
“In recent months, many politicians and presidential hopefuls have called for budget reductions, and many have specifically targeted military spending for cutbacks,” Peter Hotez and James Kazura, past president and president, respectively, of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, write in this Atlantic opinion piece. “[P]rograms such as the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) often find themselves low on the priority list despite their crucial role in saving the lives of our troops on the battlefield and here at home,” they write, adding, “Today, American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan still face formidable tropical disease threats. … For over 100 years, WRAIR has been the U.S. military’s premier institution for preventing these types of tropical infections.”
“Findings that a one-time oral treatment to cure yaws, a neglected tropical disease, is as effective as the currently recommended penicillin injection have prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to convene a meeting on how the disease may be wiped out,” IRIN reports. “‘We may be closer now than we have been in decades,’ Kingsley Asiedu, a yaws expert with WHO’s Department of Neglected Tropical Disease Control, told IRIN, calling the study on the bacterial skin disease, which leads to chronic disfiguration and disability in 10 percent of untreated cases, the most significant in half a century,” the news service writes.
The Wellcome Trust reports on neglected tropical disease (NTD) research and awareness efforts in this feature story, writing, “In the past five years or so, wider attention has begun to fall on these other diseases, thanks largely to a campaign led predominantly by scientists and centered on a new name: ‘neglected tropical diseases,’ or NTDs.” The article includes quotes from “some of the scientists who coined the new phrase to raise awareness of the continuing burden of these diseases, and … Trust-funded researchers whose work is helping to develop better solutions for tackling them” (Regnier, 1/6).