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WHO partners with 13 pharma firms to tackle tropical diseases

Pfizer, Sanofi and GSK among the companies pledging help to eradicate neglected tropical diseases like rabies and leprosy

The World Health Organization (WHO) has teamed up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, US, UAE and UK governments and 13 pharmaceutical companies to eradicate neglected tropical diseases.

The plans, outlined in Accelerating work to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases – A roadmap for implementation, give objectives for a collaborative approach that aims to control and eliminate diseases such as rabies, leprosy and blinding trachoma.

The pharma companies involved are Pfizer, Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Gilead, Eisai, Bristol-Myers Squibb, MSD, Merck KGaA, Johnson & Johnson, Abbott, Bayer and Novartis.

The companies will provide resources, including financial assistance and medicine donations, to help tackle these disease, which affect millions of people in developing nations.

At a launch event at the Royal College of Physicians in London all collaborators also signed the 'London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases' agreement, in which new levels of collaboration, tracking and reporting of progress were pledged.

Specific support efforts include a commitment from GSK to supply all the albendazole needed to eliminate the disfiguring disease lymphatic filariasis worldwide by 2020.

An ongoing programme to supply albendazole to enable de-worming of school age children in all endemic countries has also been extended to 2020.

As well as providing existing treatments, GSK has made commitments to develop new and better drugs for neglected tropical diseases through collaborative partnerships with organisations like the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi).

Meanwhile, Novartis will donate treatments worth $22.5m up until 2020 to treat leprosy, as well as providing $2.5m in support to help the WHO handle donations and logistics.

The company is also aiming to work with several stakeholders, including the Department of Health of the Philippines, to specifically eliminate leprosy in areas of the Philippines where the disease is still endemic.

"We are proud to work with governments, international agencies, nongovernmental organisations and the private sector to ensure that patients receive the treatment they need,” said Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis.

Further pharma efforts include Pfizer's extension of its donation of azithromycin for blinding trachoma until 2020; an increase in Merck KGaA's annual donation of praziquantel tablets from 25m to 250m tablets per year; and Bayer doubling its existing donation of nifurtimox to treat Chagas disease.

The WHO's roadmap concluded the organisation had 'established an effective, transparent and respected relationship' with its pharma partners.

31st January 2012

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