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Neglected Tropical Diseases in the Spotlight

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Last week our sister organization IFPMA published a status report on efforts to eliminate or control neglected tropical diseases. These are disease that offer few conventional incentives for commercial companies. The patients are often among the world’s poorest people, living in poor countries with limited health infrastructure. Despite this, one in seven people in the world is affected by these diseases. However, over the last 20 or so years, committed individuals and organisations have created a pipeline of new treatments for these disease and discovered ways of pooling resources and expertise. The outcome is that the number of active projects reported by IFPMA has increased from 32 in 2005 to 186 in 2014. Here are some of the headlines of their report

  • 13% annual increase of pharmaceutical R&D projects to develop treatments to eliminate and control neglected diseases. In 2014, 186 projects were underway.
  • 38 vaccines and treatments currently undergo clinical trials, 10 of which are in final stages. Projects include potential treatments and vaccines for TB, sleeping sickness, malaria, dengue, Chagas, schistosomiasis, intestinal worms and Ebola.
  • Of the 186 treatments or vaccines R&D projects, 28 are undergoing early stage clinical trials, while 10 currently go through the final stages of demonstrating their efficacy, quality, and safety.
  • The ten more imminent breakthroughs concern TB (3 projects), malaria (5 projects), dengue (1 project), and intestinal worms (1 project).
  • Vaccines R&D projects have tripled in the last ten years and the pipeline now holds one promising vaccine for malaria (currently under evaluation at the European Medicines Agency), one for dengue (phase III), as well as three fast-tracked vaccines for Ebola (phase I/II).
  • 164 (88%) R&D projects for neglected diseases are collaborative efforts, involving partnerships between IFPMA member companies and more than 80 partners from universities, public and private sector institutes and non-governmental organizations.

Lying behind the numbers is a deepening infrastructure of dedicated research centres and steady progress in enhancing local R&D capabilities. EFPIA’s member companies have established a fellowship programme with the European Developing Countries Clinical Trial Partnership (EDCTP) and last year the two organisations ran a seminar on improving pharmacovigilance systems in Africa. We hope to return to this issue in 2015.

Recent discussions in Brussels have highlighted one issue that goes beyond R&D. How do we make sure that these medicines reach the patient? The medicines are often supplied at cost or donated and supply is not an issue. The industry has committed to donate 14 billion treatments over the next ten years with the aim of eliminating or controlling 90% of the NTD burden. In order to make this target a reality we should look at how we support emerging countries to build the infrastructure they need to ensure patient access to these medicines and strengthen the resilience of their healthcare systems. The European Year of Development represents the right moment to take this agenda forward.

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EFPIA IP & Global Health Director

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