The pharmaceutical industry has been stepping up its efforts to find treatments for tropical diseases, according to a new analysis.

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & has just published the 2009 edition of its Status Report on Pharmaceutical Industry R&D for Diseases of the Developing World. It documents projects that are being conducted by IFPMA member companies, alone or with partners, to develop drugs and vaccines for the ten diseases of the developing world prioritised by the United Nations.

The ten are human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), Chagas disease, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis and tuberculosis and the number of projects covering these areas have increased from 67 last year to 84 this year. IFPMA noted that while the number of tuberculosis and malaria studies has grown slightly, projects for the other eight have risen “markedly” from 11 in 2008 to 25 this year.

Noting that “it is obvious that the world does not have all the medicines it needs” to address these diseases, Michael Boyd, acting director-general of IFPMA, said, claiming that the report “underlines the commitment of the research-based pharmaceutical industry and its many partners to fill these gaps”. He added that “the public-private partnership model is delivering increased R&D efforts on diseases primarily affecting the developing world”.

The report notes that the last year has seen the approval of two new treatments for these types of diseases, namely Novartis and the Medicines for Malaria Venture’s paediatric Coartem (artemether and lumefantrine) and the combination of oral nifurtimox and intravenous eflornithine for sleeping sickness. The latter was developed through a collaboration between Bayer, Sanofi, the World Health Organisation’s TDR, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, Epicentre, Medecins sans Frontieres and the Swiss Tropical Institute.