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Taking the Neglected out of Neglected Tropical Diseases
Feb 5, 2012 | DtW

On Monday 30th January in the largest coordinated effort of its type, 13 pharmaceutical companies, four governments and a host of international organisations including the Gates Foundation, World Health Organisation and the World Bank and Deworm the World joined forces to announce commitments to improve the lives of more than one billion people affected by a group of diseases known as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

These diseases devastate the lives of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, together causing death, severe disability and stigma.

At a London meeting, hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, participants announced they would: sustain or expand existing drug donation programmes 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.

Announcing the commitment of US$363 million by his Foundation, Bill Gates said the collaboration would help millions of people build self-sufficiency and serve as a model for tackling future global development challenges.

Targets identified by the donors and drugs companies included the wiping out Guinea worm disease by 2015, the global elimination of blinding trachoma and lymphatic filariasis by 2020, and the control and elimination of schistosomiasis and onchocerciasis in many African countries.

World Health Organisation (WHO) director general Margaret Chan, speaking about the new commitments said it "changes the face" of NTDs – illnesses that needlessly disable, blind and kill millions of the world's poorest people.

"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."NTDs disproportionally affect people in the poorest countries of the world. Experts estimate more than a billion people are affected by them, including more than 500 million children”

To guide the new global push in the elimination and control of NTDS WHO presented its roadmap for controlling, eliminating and eradicating NTDs. It outlines targets for addressing the health needs of the poverty-stricken communities affected by NTDs. Download the Road Map for Implementation.

Pharmaceutical representatives on the discussion panel stressed that an efficient response requires coordination and partnership, naturally outweighing the achievements one company or partner could achieve on its own.

Building on the theme of public-private partnerships to tackle these diseases 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.

Government commitment was highlighted as a key step in the development of effective and sustainable NTD treatment programmes. Using the example of the success of Kenyan national school based deworming programme which treated over 3.4 million children at a cost of 36 US cents per child.

Dr Lesley Drake, DtW's Executive Director who presented at the meeting said, ‘We can’t go it alone developmental partners, donors and pharmaceutical companies need to engage with governments to ensure that efforts and donations are targeted and used cost-effectively.

Key commitments included:

UK Department of International Development
£195 million through 2015, targeted at Guinea worm, lymphatic filariasis, river blindness and schistosomiasis, as well as the development of new programmes for blinding trachoma, visceral leishmaniasis, research and integrated country approaches.

USAID
US$89 million for NTD control in 2012.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
US$363 million over five years to overcome barriers to success and address critical gaps to achieve the control and elimination of targeted NTDs by 2020

World Bank
At the country level, extend its financing and technical support to help countries build stronger community health systems that will integrate NTD elimination and control. At the regional level, the World Bank will continue fiduciary oversight of the existing trust fund that supports the fight against river blindness in Africa, and will also work with other partners to expand the trust fund to eliminate or control preventable NTDs on the continent

Mozambique
Implementation of a fully integrated, multisectoral plan to control and eliminate NTDs, guided by WHO recommendations adapted to the local setting

  • Reach full geographic coverage of all endemic areas for lymphatic filariasis, soil-transmitted helminths and schistosomiasis
  • Completely map and reach full geographic coverage of trachoma by 2018
  • Build capacity for surveillance and action to sustain gains from mass drug administration programmes
  • Implementation of a fully integrated plan to control and eliminate NTDs, guided by WHO recommendations adapted to the local setting

Bangladesh, Brazil and Tanzania
Implementation of coordinated plan to control and eliminate NTDs, guided by WHO recommendations adapted to the local setting.

Merck KGaA

  • Increase in annual donation of praziquantel tablets from 25 million to 250 million tablets/year to treat schistomiasis infections. Extending the programme indefinitely.
  • Development of a child friendly formulation of praziquantel Merck KGaA.
  • Financial support of school awareness programmes for schistosomiasis.

GlaxoSmithKline
Extension of existing albendazole (used in the targeting transmitted helminths infections) donation of 400 million tablets/year to 2020.

Johnson & Johnson
Extension of existing mebendazole (used in the targeting soil transmitted helminths infections) donation of 200 million tablets/year to 2020.

Eisai
Donation of 2.2 billion tablets of DEC (used in the targeting of Lymphatic Filariasis) from 2012-2020.

Click here for a full list of the commitments made

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