Thirteen pharmaceutical companies, the U.S., U.K. and U.A.E governments, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank and other global health organizations will join forces to eliminate or control 10 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by the end of the decade.
Uniting efforts with NTD-endemic countries, partners pledged to bring a unique focus to defeating these diseases and to work together to improve the lives of the 1.4 billion people worldwide affected by NTDs, most of who are among the world's poorest.
In the largest coordinated effort to date to combat NTDs, the group announced at an event at the Royal College of Physicians that they plan to: sustain or expand existing drug donation programs to meet demand through 2020, share expertise and compounds to accelerate R&D of new drugs and provide more than $785 million to support R&D efforts and strengthen drug distribution and implementation programs.
The partners also endorsed the "London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases," in which they pledged new levels of collaborative effort and tracking of progress.
"Today, we have joined together to increase the impact of our investments and build on the tremendous progress made to date," said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "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." The Gates Foundation announced a five-year, $363 million commitment to support NTD product and operational research.
To guide the effort against NTDs, the World Health Organization (WHO) this week unveiled a new strategy: a roadmap for implementation that sets targets for what can be achieved by the end of the decade.
"The efforts of WHO, 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," said Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO. "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."
New commitments from partners will close the funding gap to eradicate Guinea worm disease and expedite progress toward the 2020 goals of eliminating lymphatic filariasis, blinding trachoma, sleeping sickness and leprosy, and control of soil-transmitted helminthes, schistosomiasis, river blindness, Chagas disease and visceral leishmaniasis.
Speaking on behalf of the CEOs of the 13 pharmaceutical companies involved, Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, said, "Many companies and organizations have worked for decades to fight these horrific diseases. But no one company or organization can do it alone. Today, we pledge to work hand-in-hand to revolutionize the way we fight these diseases now and in the future."
With new and existing pledges totaled, companies will donate an average of 1.4 billion treatments each year to those in need, according to the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA). In addition, new R&D collaborative efforts and access agreements with 11 companies and the R&D organization Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) are providing unprecedented access to compound libraries that could lead to new treatments. These commitments will work in parallel with other efforts to speed the development of critical NTD treatments, including WIPO Re:Search, a database of research compounds, knowledge and expertise.
To close the funding gap for Guinea worm eradication, his highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates; the Gates Foundation; and the Children's Investment Fund Foundation will donate $40 million to The Carter Center. These commitments complement an October pledge from the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) that it would contribute roughly $31 million if others come forward—part of a four-year, $306 million commitment to NTDs announced by DFID last week.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) also announced an $89 million appropriation by the U.S. Congress to strengthen drug delivery and distribution programs, building on its $212 million investment since 2006. In addition, the World Bank will extend its financing and technical support to help African countries build stronger community health systems to integrate NTD elimination and control, as well as work with other partners to expand a trust fund to combat river blindness to other preventable NTDs in Africa.
The pledges and declaration come in response to WHO's 2010 report, “Working to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases,” which called for new resources to overcome NTDs.
Specific partner commitments include:
Sustaining, expanding and extending drug supply: All companies with NTD drug donation programs pledged to sustain or extend their programs to the end of the decade, and some pledged to increase their commitments. These commitments include the following:
Accelerating R&D for new treatments:
Increasing funding to improve drug product and operational research, delivery and implementation programs, including prevention, monitoring and education: