Neglected diseases get some attention

In this April 20, 2009 file photo, a sign for British pharmaceuticals firm GlaxoSmithKline is seen on its offices, in London. GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer Inc. made a 10-year commitment to supply developing nations with new pneumonia vaccines, the Geneva-based public-private partnership GAVI Alliance said Tuesday, March 23, 2010.(AP Photo/Sang Tan, file)

In marking the first anniversary of their gathering, the groups and drug companies involved in the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases issued a report that offers some of the successes and some of the gaps still to be filled.

A link to the coalition web site with the report is here.

GlaxoSmithKline, which is based in London but has a big presence in the Philadelphia region, is among the drug companies involved and chief executive officer Andrew Witty helped gather the participants last year to coordinate efforts to deal with diseases that hurt people in underdeveloped places in the world. Aside from whatever humanitarian urge he felt, Witty has stressed the need for the company to expand its thinking beyond selling "white pills in Western markets." Glaxo established a dedicated NTD unit.

An official with Doctors Without Borders, which is not shy about criticizing drug companies, said in a recent interview that among drug company CEOs, Witty has been more open than some to discussions about how drug companies can make better contributions to those causes.

As part of this discussion, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), which is an industry trade group headquartered in Geneva, said Wednesday that in 2102 companies increased to 132 the total number of R&D projects related to neglected diseases.

The projects forcused on diseases prioritized by the World Health Organization's Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR): tuberculosis, malaria, human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), leishmaniasis, dengue, onchocerciasis (River blindness), American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease), schistosomiasis, leprosy and lymphatic filariasis.

The group noted that company projects include research, "capacity-strengthening," and donations of medicine.

"We take a comprehensive approach to tacking neglected diseases," IFPMA Director General Eduardo Pisani said in a statement. "Donations of 14 billion treatments this decade address patients’ near-term needs while these 132 R&D programs will bring innovative vaccines and treatments to meet future needs and hopefully stop these dreaded diseases."

The IFPMA report is here.