The high incidence of a number of infectious diseases in Latin America, plus the unavailability of adequate treatments for them, spell opportunities for pharmaceutical companies across the region to develop new and improved diagnosis and treatment methods, according to new research.

In particular, Latin America has high rates of HIV, Chagas disease, dengue and influenza H1N1, according to the study, from Frost & Sullivan. It also reports that Chagas ranks the highest in terms of relative prevalence, and that the 50% efficacy rate of current treatments means that this is a market to be tapped and developed.

HIV has the second-highest incidence rate in the region, followed by dengue and influenza H1N1.

Lucila Rocca, healthcare industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan, points out that, as a result of intense competition in the market, pharmaceutical companies in Latin America are currently offering numerous generic drugs for the treatment of HIV at reduced prices. However, while these drugs assure a longer and better life for patients, they do not cure their disease, and this leaves considerable room for more effective therapies, she adds.

There are current no effective therapies available for the treatment of dengue, but Sanofi-Pasteur is set to introduce, by 2016, a vaccine which will prevent serotypes I, III and IV of the virus. And, as far as the treatment of Chagas is concerned, a pro-drug of ravuconazole and posaconazole is expected to obtain regulatory approval within the next five years, according to the study.

Ms Rocca advises pharmaceutical companies to assist governments across Latin America in controlling the spread of HIV, Chagas disease, dengue and influenza H1N1 – which is mainly the result of poverty and poor housing – by educating their populations on the prevalence and causes of these conditions.

“They should also collaborate to improve diagnostic methods and the patients’ access to the system in Latin America,” she adds.

Overall, the report finds that prospects in Latin America for pharmaceutical companies are promising, especially in view of the aging of the population across the region. However, it goes on to emphasise the importance for generics manufacturers that they continue offering their products at lower prices, as governments across the region – which are already reimbursing 100% of the cost of medications to patients with HIV and influenza H1N1 – purchase large amounts of the lowest-priced medications and vaccines in the market.