Greater Governmental Leadership is needed to Foster Medical Innovation for Millions Suffering from Neglected Diseases
Geneva/New York, 23 February 2009 —The international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) called today for more sustainable funding for research and development (R&D) to tackle deadly, yet neglected diseases, such as sleeping sickness, visceral leishmaniasis, and Chagas disease, that affect millions of people around the world. MSF also announced its renewed operational and financial support to DNDi, a non-profit R&D organization co-founded by MSF and five public and private research institutes in 2003, in response to the urgent need for new treatments and the lack of adequate public leadership in stimulating R&D and medical innovation for neglected diseases.
“We have patients suffering from diseases such as sleeping sickness who are forced to endure toxic and dangerous treatments just to have a limited chance at survival; at the same time, treatments for those living with visceral leishmaniasis remain prohibitively expensive, and treatments for chronic Chagas patients are nonexistent,” said Dr Christophe Fournier, MSF’s International Council President. “DNDi has demonstrated through its work how innovative, needs-driven collaborative R&D can produce medicine adapted to our patients. DNDi and other public-private partnerships, however, cannot substitute for strong political leadership and commitment of governments to ensure people have access to lifesaving treatments for neglected diseases.”
Since its inception, DNDi has developed two fixed-dose combination treatments (ASAQ and ASMQ) for malaria without patent protection, resulting in medicines that are adapted to patient needs and can be sourced from several manufacturers, thereby ensuring competitive pricing and sufficient availability of the drugs. In addition, positive results for an improved sleeping sickness treatment, based on a recently completed clinical trial by DNDi, with significant field related support from MSF, is promising news for patients. DNDi has also developed the largest-ever R&D portfolio for potential new treatments for sleeping sickness, visceral leishmaniasis and Chagas disease.
“Stimulating innovation and delivering effective, affordable treatments for diseases that affect the world’s poorest populations, and that fall outside the mainstream market interest, remains a tremendous challenge for DNDi and its partners given the lack of sustainable and predictable funding sources,” said Dr Bernard Pécoul, DNDi Executive Director. “Our results demonstrate that when R&D is driven by patient needs, it is possible to create cutting-edge medical tools that are accessible to the impoverished people most at risk from neglected diseases.”
Although the global R&D landscape has improved for neglected diseases since 2003, the dire needs of the most neglected victims who carry on suffering in the developing world are still largely unmet. A recent study by G-Finder revealed that less than 5 percent of worldwide R&D funding for neglected diseases has been directed towards the most neglected diseases, such as sleeping sickness, visceral leishmaniasis, and Chagas. More than 500 million people are at risk from these three parasitic diseases. Given the acute need for treatments for patients in the field, MSF has committed €18 million (about US$22.5 million) over the next six years to DNDi and continues to provide support through its field programs to the operational and clinical research needed to advance DNDi’s drug-development portfolio.
Notes to Editors
The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) is an independent, not-for-profit product development partnership working to research and develop new and improved treatments for neglected diseases such as malaria, leishmaniasis, human African trypanosomiasis, and Chagas disease. For further information, please consult www.dndi.org.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created in 1971. Today, MSF provides emergency medical aid in over 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters. MSF provides independent, impartial assistance to those most in need. MSF reserves the right to speak out to bring attention to neglected crises, to challenge inadequacies or abuse of the aid system, and to advocate for improved medical treatments and protocols. For more information, please consult www.msf.org