Washington, D.C., May 2, 2009 – Leading tropical disease experts were featured in the May 2 edition of the medical journal The Lancet stressing the economic, global health and security, developmental and human rights case for investment in Neglected Tropical Disease control even in difficult economic times.

NTDs are devastating, debilitating and deadly parasitic and bacterial infections that adversely affect the poorest 1.4 billion people worldwide living on $1.25 a day. Such conditions promote poverty because of their impact on child growth and development, pregnancy outcome, and worker productivity adversely affecting the earning capacity of already impoverished individuals and communities. The authors note that a 15-30% rate of economic return from control efforts in countries severely impacted by NTD has been demonstrated in many programs – a remarkable return on investment and one of the best in any area of development.

Moreover, a low-cost investment in fighting NTDs also makes a significant impact on other diseases including malaria and HIV/AIDS because of the broad effect of the medicines. NTD control campaigns have successfully distributed medicines at a cost of often less than 50 cents per person per year enabling the treatment of seven of the most common NTDs while also building community-directed health networks, which in some cases, simultaneously distribute antimalarial bednets, childhood vaccinations and vitamin A. The authors note that such “low costs and efficiencies will be especially welcomed in these new times of economic difficulties.”

The authors comment that global financing mechanisms for NTDs should take into consideration that disease-control programs must be nationally owned, embedded in national health plans, and backed by political commitment. The World Health Organization and national health ministries should work together with partner organizations such as the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, major pharmaceutical companies who have generously donated highly effective drugs, often for as long as needed, as well as implementing non governmental organizations to ensure that national and local NTD control campaigns are successful.

The Lancet Viewpoint piece notes that the people who comprise “the bottom billion” of the world are often subsistence farmers who are “stuck in a poverty trap of disease, conflict and no education.” Almost everyone lives with at least one NTD in spite of the fact that low-cost treatments exists to prevent, treat, control and in some cases eliminate these devastating diseases. The authors conclude that controlling and eventually eliminating most NTDs “will address a major development problem and bring hope to the most disenfranchised populations.”

Peter J. Hotez, Alan Fenwick, Lorenzo Savioli and David Molyneux authored the Lancet Viewpoint entitled “Rescuing the bottom billion through the control of neglected tropical diseases.” The complete article can be viewed at www.globalnetwork.org.

Former HHS Secretary and Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson and Peter Hotez, President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Distinguished Research Professor at the George Washington University will deliver a special presentation on “Medical Diplomacy and NTDs” at the SAIS Global Health and Foreign Policy Initiative Spring 2009 Seminar Series on May 7th at 1 pm in the Rome Auditorium, 1619 Massachusetts Ave., N.W. Tommy Thompson is a Global Ambassador for the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, a major initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute.

About Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, headquartered at the Sabin Vaccine Institute, is committed to raising the profile of neglected tropical diseases and leveraging international resources to end suffering and death through effective, low-cost treatments. www.globalnetwork.org

Members of the Global Network: The Earth Institute at Columbia University, Helen Keller International, International Trachoma Initiative, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, and The Task Force for Child Survival and Development.

About Sabin Vaccine Institute
Sabin Vaccine Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing human suffering from infectious and neglected diseases. Through its efforts in vaccine research, development and advocacy, Sabin works to provide greater access to vaccines and essential medicines for millions stuck in pain, poverty and despair. Founded in 1993 in honor of Dr. Albert B. Sabin, discoverer of the oral polio vaccine, the Sabin Vaccine Institute works with prestigious institutions, scientists, medical professionals, and organizations to provide short and long-term solutions that result in healthier individuals, families and communities around the globe. For more information about Sabin’s research and commitment, visit: www.sabin.org.