Thirteen pharmaceutical companies, along with governments and other health organisations have unveiled what they call "a coordinated push to accelerate progress toward eliminating or controlling ten neglected tropical diseases by the end of the decade".
The companies, along with the US, UK. and United Arab Emirates governments, plus the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank and other groups have got together "in the largest coordinated effort to date to combat NTD". The plan, announced at the Royal College of Physicians in London, will see the expansion of existing drug donation programmes and provide more than $785 million to support R&D efforts.
Highlights of the several commitments made include Sanofi, Eisai and the Gates Foundation's plan will work together to provide 120 million diethylcarbamazine (known as DEC) tablets to the World Health Organisation for its global lymphatic filariasis elimination programme. Novartis will extend its commitment to provide multi-drug therapy (rifampicin, clofazimine and dapsone) to leprosy patients worldwide, while Pfizer will continue its donation of azithromycin for blinding trachoma until at least 2020, as well as donate the drug and placebo to a study on the reduction in mortality of children treated with azithromycin.
With new and existing pledges, companies will donate an average of 1.4 billion treatments each year, according to the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations. The new commitments 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.
Bill Gates said "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". Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO, added that the .efforts of the organisation, "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". She went on to say that "with the boost to this momentum...I am confident almost all of these diseases can be eliminated or controlled by the end of this decade."
Speaking on behalf of the CEOs of the 13 pharma firms involved, GSK chief executive Sir Andrew Witty said while "many companies and organisations have worked for decades to fight these horrific diseases…no one company or organisation can do it alone". He added that "we pledge to work hand-in-hand to revolutionise the way we fight these diseases now and in the future".