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U.S. Office Of Global Health Diplomacy Should Lead G20 Efforts To Ensure Global NTD Drug Coverage

“Because they strike mostly forgotten people living on less than $2 per day, [neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)] have traditionally been thought of as a problem exclusive to low-income countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa,” Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and president and director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, writes in a Foreign Policy opinion piece. “But our latest research shows that most cases of the worst NTDs (defined by disability-adjusted life years lost) actually occur among the extreme poor who live in the large emerging market economies that comprise the G20, together with Nigeria, which has a GDP equivalent to several Western European countries,” he notes, adding, “Much of the disease burden within G20 countries falls on the poor in Indonesia and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), but there are also several serious NTDs found in Eastern and Southern Europe, and in the southern United States.”

“Beyond Britain and the United States, however, very little is being done to leverage preventive chemotherapy against NTDs,” Hotez states, adding, “Today, the United States and some European countries account for almost all of the world’s public support for neglected disease research and development, with minimal contribution from the emerging market economies of the G20.” He continues, “As such, there is an urgent need for these other G20 nations to contribute, especially Russia, India, and China — countries which currently spend heavily on nuclear weapons technologies. Their nuclear activities could be redirected for peacetime purposes to develop new NTD technologies.” He concludes, “The recently established U.S. State Department Office of Global Health Diplomacy should lead diplomatic efforts to pressure all of the G20 countries to expand preventive chemotherapy efforts in order to ensure 100 percent global NTD drug coverage, while simultaneously promoting international scientific cooperation to produce NTD technologies” (3/25).