25 Apr 2014
(Photo: UNDP Zimbabwe)
TB, Malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality globally. They are diseases of poverty mostly prevalent among disadvantaged communities with high levels of inequality. In 2012, TB claimed the lives of 1.3 million people, 95 of whom lived in low and middle income Countries (LMICs). In the same year, more than 600,000 lives were lost to malaria, the vast majority of them young African children. Tropical diseases, although not always fatal, can lead to delayed growth in children, impaired cognition and memory, malnutrition, organ damage, blindness, disfigurement and permanent disability.
The inter-connected challenges of innovation and access
The term “neglected” says it all. While NTDs account for 11.4 percent of the global disease burden, the investment in developing diagnostics, medicines and vaccines to treat them is disproportionately low. Of the 1,556 new medicines approved between 1975 and 2004, only 1.3 percent were specifically developed for tropical diseases and TB.
However, even as the number of new health technologies coming to market increases slowly, the capacity in several LMICs to deliver these products to patients in need remains very weak. Health systems need to be strengthened so that these medicines can be delivered and …