G7 Leaders Commit to Research and Development for NTDs
Last year, the leaders of some of the wealthiest nations pledged help control and eliminate the most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020. This week, leaders of Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Italy and France issued a communiqué from the 2016 Group of 7 (G7) Summit that again includes NTDs and pledges to support research and development (R&D).
The G7 Ise-Shima Vision for Global Health details how G7 nations can drive research and development for NTDs and other conditions not adequately addressed by the market. G7 nations will implement policies to encourage the development of and access to medical products for NTDs and fund research and development (R&D) costs. They will also fund incentives such as advance purchases to guarantee a market for new tools. They pledged to promote well-coordinated public-private partnerships to develop new drugs and alternative therapies, such as the Global Health Innovative Technology (GHIT) Fund and the Innovative Medicines Initiative. And finally, they will strengthen collaboration between research institutions, funding organizations and policy makers in G7 countries.
Japan, host of this year’s summit, has long shown leadership in the fight against NTDs, particularly in research and development of new tools to fight NTDs. Just days before the Summit, Japan announced its $130 million replenishment of the GHIT Fund, a global funding platform for research into new tools against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and NTDs. In 1998 at the G7 UK-Birmingham Summit, Japan initiated the Hashimoto Initiative for Global Parasite Control, the first global initiative to demand international cooperation around parasitic disease control through research and program support.
More than 1.4 billion people suffer from NTDs. But support for existing treatment programs is absent from this year’s G7 communiqué. The global effort to control and eliminate NTDs, led by the World Health Organization, has succeeded in reaching more people than ever before with medication donated by major pharmaceutical companies. But just half of people who require treatment receive it. Eliminating NTDs requires a two-pronged approach – investing in R&D for new vaccines, medications and diagnostics, while also scaling-up access to currently available treatments.
The annual funding gap to expand access and utilize existing NTD treatments is between US$220 and $460 million – a small sum for some of the wealthiest countries in the world. Even as we pursue vaccines and other tools that may eventually eliminate these diseases for good, G7 leaders must increase funding for NTD treatment programs to address these diseases of poverty now.
The G7 must go beyond its current commitment to R&D by increasing funding over the next five years to scale up access to treatments. When the G7 Health Ministers meet September 11-12 in Kobe, Japan, we urge them to expand upon the Heads of States’ declaration by proposing concrete initiatives to tackle NTDs through both increased R&D and access to existing treatments.
Related: Read the statement from Dr. Peter Hotez, President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute