November 9, 2011

How pharmaceutical companies can help take the 'neglected' out of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)
By Sarika Bansal

What do schistosomiasis, cysticercosis, and lymphatic filariasis have in common?

Besides verging on the unpronounceable, they are all classified as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). NTDs are a set of diseases – seventeen, by the World Health Organization’s count – that collectively affect over a billion people, but have historically received little attention.

The most common NTDs, including those listed above, are caused by parasitic worms or protozoa. Others, such as leprosy and trachoma, are the result of bacterial or viral infections.

...there has traditionally been limited awareness of NTDs. Similarly, because NTDs cause more disability than death, they have historically flown under the radar of many public health efforts. Perhaps most importantly, the populations NTDs disproportionately affect have little money to spend on medicine, resulting in what Peter Hotez, President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, calls “the business plan from hell.”

How can we change this status quo? What needs to happen before the pharmaceutical industry, academic researchers, and other key players begin investing more seriously in diseases that debilitate over a billion people?

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