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A New Era of Hope for the World's Most Neglected Diseases

International health agencies have designated a group of 13 tropical infections as neglected diseases (Kala-azar (leishmaniasis), African Sleeping Sickness (African trypanosomiasis), Chagas Disease (American trypanosomiasis), Schistosomiasis, Lymphatic Filariasis (elephantiasis), Onchocerciasis (river blindness), Drancunculiasis (guinea worm), Soil-transmitted Helminthiases, Leprosy, Buruli Ulcer, Trachoma).

These diseases have much in common: they affect the world's poorest people (and are a cause of poverty); they are disabling, disfiguring, and stigmatizing; there is a shortage of safe and effective treatments; and affected patients have represented the lowest-priority markets for Western pharmaceutical manufacturers. Bernard Pécoul of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) has called these patients “the forgotten people.?/p>

The conventional wisdom is that the outlook for such patients is hopeless. As one of us has argued, “[They] have no purchasing power, no vocal advocacy group is pleading for their needs, and no strategic interests—military or security—are driving concern about these conditions?(BMJ 325: 176?77). Hence, only 13 new drugs have been developed for neglected tropical diseases since 1975, and they have garnered little international attention compared with “the big three?global health threats: HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

Fortunately, there is good news to report. The ?005 reality,?argues Mary Moran of the London School of Economics in an article in PLoS Medicine (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0020302), is that an explosion of public–private partnerships for health has dramatically altered the landscape of neglected-disease drug development. Her analysis shatters a common illusion—that industry is profoundly disinterested in developing drugs for neglected diseases. “Long-held beliefs on neglected-disease drug development activity are no longer accurate,?writes Moran.

According to her analysis, 63 neglected
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Source:PLoS Medecine


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