Opinion Pieces, Blog React To New Public-Private NTD Initiative

Pharmaceutical company heads and global health leaders gathered at a conference on Monday in London to announce the formation of a large public-private partnership to fight neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and endorse the “London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases” (.pdf), in which they pledged to work together and track progress. The following is a summary of two opinion pieces and a blog post in response to the news.

  • Peter Hotez, Huffington Post: “Today we are breaking a vicious cycle of NTDs and poverty affecting the world’s poorest children, subsistence farmers, and girls and women, by accelerating efforts to control or eliminate many of these chronic and stigmatizing infections,” Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, writes. He concludes, “We have a unique opportunity to meet the World Health Organization’s 2020 targets for NTD control and elimination. Success would represent one of the most cost-effective means to lift one billion people out of poverty and prevent needless suffering among future generations” (1/30).
  • Unni Karunakara, Huffington Post: Karunakara, international president of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), writes the organization is “concerned that the conference is painting too simple a picture of how we can finally be rid once and for all of these diseases” by emphasizing drug donations. If the global community is to eliminate these diseases, “we need properly funded treatment programs that include screening and surveillance; continued support for innovative partnerships such as [Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi)] to deliver newer and better drugs and diagnostics; and better policies to develop affordable medicines for patients in poor countries; and public authorities need to step up and take the lead on developing and maintaining these programs,” he writes (1/31).
  • Tom Paulson, KPLU’s “Humanosphere”: Paulson says the initiative is “widely regarded as a positive step forward for global health, but there are some important questions that went unanswered,” including “[w]hat is a neglected disease?” and “[w]ill this initiative get at the root problem or just address symptoms?” He says there is no consensus on the definition of a neglected disease, noting that some people feel cancer and non-communicable diseases qualify as such in some parts of the world. Also, he says “tropical” might be a misnomer, as diseases traditionally found in tropical climates move into non-tropical regions. As for the root problem of poverty, Paulson says, “Obviously, it’s orders of magnitude easier to give drugs to the poor than to help them stop being poor,” and expresses concern over whether the initiative will do much in terms of sustainable solutions (1/30).

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