Date Published: 23 March 2007

Neglected diseases – new treatments available but more funding needed (BMA)

A BMA report out today brings good news and bad news for the millions of people suffering from “neglected diseases” in the developing world.

It reports that since 2000 there has been a resurgence in drugs to treat diseases such as malaria and leprosy which have previously been “neglected”. This resurgence is thought to be due to the prevalence of these conditions in developing countries.

Research activity into neglected diseases has increased partly because of public pressure from groups such as Oxfam and celebrities such as Bono. This has resulted in increased philanthropic funding for drug research, which has been used to establish Public-Private partnerships – new not-for-profit drug development organisations.

The report recommends PPPs as the most efficient model for developing new drugs for neglected diseases. However, it says that with the honourable exception of the UK, and to some extent the US, most governments have not invested sufficiently in them.

Dr Edwin Borman, chair of the BMA International Committee, said:

" This report gives hope to millions of people living in poor countries who suffer from a range of deadly tropical diseases. For decades, no effective treatment was available. Now we have the chance to save many lives, with new drugs being developed through innovative public-private partnerships. More money is needed, however, and the BMA appreciates that the UK government already has pledged major support. The BMA urges national medical associations in Europe and beyond to lobby their governments to do the same."

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey, Chairman of the Medicines for Malaria Venture, said:

" In the developed world few understand the harsh reality of the huge effect of neglected diseases in Africa, Asia, the Pacific and Latin America. For those of us aware of the ravages of disease in the developing world, no effort should be spared to find whatever effective means we can of working to produce medicines, to improve sanitation and provide clean water. In my 30 years concerned with development issues, one of the most heartening changes is the assistance that PPPs are beginning to bring to health and development. As Chairman of the Medicines for Malaria Venture, I am now seeing the real positive contribution that collaborative working is bringing. I am delighted to read that this outcome is now becoming more widely seen as effective and appropriate. Now we need more to be involved in financing PPPs. This report is essential reading for those who care about health across the world."


Source: British Medical Association (BMA).

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