The World Health Organization (WHO) has the support of 13 major pharmaceutical companies in developing a co-ordinated strategy to eliminate or control 10 key neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020.
The global pharma industry will work with governments and global health and finance organisations to sustain or expand existing drug donation programmes, accelerate R&D and strengthen drug distribution and implementation.
In a joint statement, the ‘London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases’, the partners stated concrete objectives in fighting diseases that affect 1.4 billion people in tropical regions, including river blindness, sleeping sickness and leprosy.
Medical research in the West has neglected these diseases because they are widespread only in the developing world and among poor people; however, they represent major barriers to the economic development of the countries affected.
Pharmaceutical companies involved in supporting the new strategy are: Abbott, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eisai, Gilead, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck KGaA, Merck Sharp & Dohme, Novartis, Pfizer and Sanofi.
These companies will donate drug treatments for a total of 1.4 billion people affected by NTDs per year throughout the coming decade, as well as building collaborative R&D programmes and medication access agreements.
The campaign aims to provide the funding gap necessary to complete the eradication of guinea worm disease; ensure progress towards the elimination of lymphatic filariasis, blinding trachoma, sleeping sickness and leprosy by 2020; and achieve control of soil-transmitted helminthes, schistosomiasis, river blindness, Chagas disease and visceral leishmaniasis.
“The efforts of WHO, researchers, partners, and the contributions of industry have changed the face of NTDs,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO. “These ancient diseases are now being brought to their knees with stunning speed. I am confident almost all of these diseases can be eliminated or controlled by the end of this decade.”
Speaking on behalf of the pharma companies involved in the campaign, Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, said: “Many companies and organisations have worked for decades to fight these horrific diseases. But no one company or organisation can do it alone. Today, we pledge to work hand-in-hand to revolutionise the way we fight these diseases now and in the future.”
To see the campaign’s video, click here.