The world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, the US, UK and UAE governments, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank and other global health organisations announced a new, coordinated push to accelerate progress toward eliminating or controlling 10 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020.
Uniting efforts with NTD-endemic countries, partners pledged to bring a unique focus to defeating these diseases and to work together to improve the lives of the 1.4 billion people worldwide affected by NTDs, most of whom are among the world’s poorest.
In the largest coordinated effort to date to combat NTDs, the group announced that they would: sustain or expand existing drug donation programs to meet demand through 2020; share expertise and compounds to accelerate research and development of new drugs; and provide more than US$785 million to support R&D efforts and strengthen drug distribution and implementation programmes. Partners also endorsed the “London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases,” in which they pledged new levels of collaborative effort and tracking of progress.
“Today, we have joined together to increase the impact of our investments and build on the tremendous progress made to date,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “This innovative approach must serve as a model for solving other global development challenges and will help millions of people build self-sufficiency and overcome the need for aid.” The Gates Foundation announced a five-year, US$363 million commitment to support NTD product and operational research.
To guide the effort against NTDs, the World Health Organisation (WHO) this week unveiled a new strategy, Accelerating work to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases – A roadmap for implementation, that sets targets for what can be achieved by the end of the decade.
“The efforts of WHO, researchers, partners, and the contributions of industry have changed the face of NTDs. These ancient diseases are now being brought to their knees with stunning speed,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO. “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.”
New commitments from partners will close the funding gap to eradicate Guinea worm disease and expedite progress toward the 2020 goals of elimination for lymphatic filariasis, blinding trachoma, sleeping sickness and leprosy, and control of soil-transmitted helminthes, schistosomiasis, river blindness, Chagas disease and visceral leishmaniasis.
Speaking on behalf of the CEOs of the 13 pharmaceutical companies involved, Sir Andrew Witty, GlaxoSmithKline CEO, 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 revolutionize the way we fight these diseases now and in the future.”
With new and existing pledges totaled, companies will donate an average of 1.4 billion treatments each year to those in need, according to the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA). In addition, new research and development collaborative efforts and access agreements with 11 companies and the R&D organisation Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) are providing unprecedented access to compound libraries that could lead to new treatments. These commitments will work in parallel with other efforts to speed the development of critical NTD treatments, including WIPO Re:Search, a database of research compounds, knowledge and expertise.
“The world has come together to end the neglect of these horrific diseases which needlessly disable, blind and kill millions of the world’s poorest,” said Stephen O’Brien, UK Minister for International Development. “Britain and other partners are leading the way to provide critical treatments to millions of people, which allow children to attend school and parents to provide for their families so that they can help themselves out of poverty and eventually no longer rely on aid.”
These pledges and the Declaration come in response to WHO’s 2010 report, Working to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases, which called for new resources to overcome NTDs. Representatives from the pharmaceutical industry, the Gates Foundation and other partners worked during the past year to develop this expanded, coordinated effort.
The governments of Bangladesh, Brazil, Mozambique and Tanzania, where NTDs are endemic, announced that they would implement integrated plans to defeat NTDs and devote political and financial resources to combat these diseases. All partners pledged accountability by exploring mechanisms to regularly track progress toward the 2020 goals.
“From the moment the evidence of the very heavy burden of NTDs in Mozambique was understood, the government of Mozambique has taken action and continuously increased its commitment and investment to control or eliminate these diseases,” said Dr. Alexandre Manguele, Minister of Health of Mozambique. “With the resources pledged today in the context of this partnership the government of Mozambique feels ever more assured that the mission can be accomplished.”