Experts at a December 2012 WHO meeting agreed on a plan to eliminate sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis), the Lancet reports. Highlighting the difference between eradication — “incidence is permanently reduced to zero cases worldwide and no further action is needed” — and elimination — “incidence is reduced to zero cases worldwide or in a defined geographical area but action might be needed to keep it that way” — the journal writes the goal is to bring the number of cases to zero, as eradication would mean ridding the world of the tsetse fly, which is responsible for transmission.
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)
Nick Chapman, a policy analyst at Policy Cures, writes in a guest post on the Global Health Technologies Coalition’s “Breakthroughs” blog about “the results of the latest G-FINDER survey on global funding of [research and development (R&D)] for neglected diseases.” He discusses several findings and trends from the report, including the impact of the global financial recession on R&D funding; the relatively stable level of U.S. funding; the concentration of pharmaceutical company funding to “a limited number of diseases with some commercial overlap, such as dengue fever, bacterial pneumonia and meningitis, and tuberculosis (TB)”; the shift away from product development funding from public funders; and the effect of these trends on product development partnerships (PDPs) (Lufkin, 12/19).
The following blog posts were published in response to a series of attacks against polio workers in Pakistan this week, which have left eight dead since Monday.
“We know that in addition to drugs to treat and control [neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)], improvements to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) can help prevent re-infection and contribute to lasting health, education and economic improvements,” Anupama Tantri, a senior program officer with the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, writes in the group’s “End the Neglect” blog. “The challenge is figuring out how to reach communities and enable these WASH improvements and NTD control activities,” she continues, highlighting efforts “to identify practical, concrete steps to help these sectors work together and ensure that efforts and resources reach these marginalized, neglected communities.” Tantri concludes, “The solutions are out there. We just need work together to end the neglect” (12/18).
The Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network” blog “reports on the challenges of eliminating river blindness from Africa by 2025.” “The implications of shift from disease control to elimination are considerable, as has been the case with the objective to eliminate onchocerciasis (better known as river blindness) by 2025, decided by the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) back in 2009,” the blog writes, detailing elimination efforts against the disease since the 1970s. “Together, 20 years of vector control and 25 years of ivermectin treatment have brought onchocerciasis prevalence down to insignificant levels in many countries,” the blog states. However, “the disease still exists,” the blog notes and highlights a number of challenges to achieving elimination, such as raising funds for surveillance efforts and achieving universal treatment coverage due to “a potentially lethal reaction [to the drug] in patients infected with loa-loa, a parasite common in forest areas” (Filou, 12/17).
Several blogs recently reported on issues discussed last week during a conference sponsored by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, titled “Lives in the Balance: Delivering Medical Innovations for Neglected Patients and Populations.” The following is a list of those posts.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine this week are hosting a conference in New York, titled “Lives in the Balance: Delivering Medical Innovations for Neglected Patients and Populations,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. In a video presentation, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim “told the conference … that the goal is to ‘lay the foundation of a health science that works for the poor,'” according to the newspaper. “That means innovative research on diseases and delivery systems geared to people in developing nations, not the more affluent ones, greater sharing of ideas, and support for developing nations so they can assist in the process from beginning to end,” the newspaper writes (Sell, 12/14).
“African scientists from key research institutions and universities have challenged governments to take serious the issues of neglected and tropical disease to curb millions of deaths among the poor,” Xinhua reports. More than 50 researchers met this week in Kisumu, Kenya, at the 6th Annual Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Symposium, where they “said action is needed from the government, donors, and drug companies to reduce death associated with NTDs,” the news service writes. “The researchers said even with massive deaths associated with NTDs, challenges remain in reaching those affected,” as the diseases are “perceived to only affect the poor who are regarded as less important in the society” and do not have the ability to purchase treatments, Xinhua adds, and writes, “The meeting was centered on the theme making elimination feasible, [and] ‘neglect no more’ in line with [Kenya Medical Research Institute] efforts to control the effects of neglected tropical diseases in the region” (12/11).
In this PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog post, Julien Potet and Katy Athersuch of Medecins Sans Frontieres’ (MSF) Access Campaign say that the WHO’s decision last week to “simply continue monitoring” the medical research and development (R&D) industry’s ability to address the needs of people living in developing countries “by creating a global R&D ‘observatory'” is “a deeply disappointing outcome that will not help re-shape priorities, increase funding or catalyze development of urgently needed new medical tools; at best it will only underscore further how badly these actions are needed.” They discuss how access to new tools, technologies, and treatments “can save lives” and some of the progress made in expanding R&D. Advocates’ “pressure will be critical for engaging governments and mobilizing the public leadership needed to support the research for cures that millions of neglected patients await,” they conclude (12/6).
“The World Health Organization (WHO) established a global monitoring framework for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) at a Geneva meeting on November 9, 2012 — a little over a year after the U.N. General Assembly adopted a political declaration on NCDs,” Management Sciences for Health’s “Global Health Impact” blog reports, noting Ambassador Betty King, permanent representative of the U.S. to the U.N. and other international organizations in Geneva, announced the framework in November. “MSH commends Ambassador Betty King, WHO member states, along with civil society and industry partnerships, for their leadership on this framework for tackling NCDs,” the blog writes (Sangiwa, 12/4).