Inequalities in Medical Research and Development: The Case of Neglected Diseases
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According to the World Health Report 2002, preventable or treatable infectious and parasitic diseases are the primary causes of death worldwide. The limited availability of appropriate drugs to treat these diseases is a result of many causes, some biological (increasing parasite resistance), some merely economic and political (discontinued production or high cost of drugs, the lack of ongoing Research & Development -R&D- into these diseases). These so called "neglected diseases" are diseases represening an enduring medical need as they lack appropriate treatment. Examples of these diseases are, among others: leishmaniasis, Human AfricanTtrypanosomiasis, Chagas disease, and Lymphati cFilariasis. Drugs to treat these diseases have, virtually, no profitable market. Fourteen million people die of infectious diseases each year, 90% of them in poor countries of the Southern hemisphere. Many possible solutions have been proposed to overcome this serious global health problem, the most remarkable being the DNDi, (Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative). DNDI is an Médécins Sans Frontières (MSF) driven initiative to promote the development and production of effective, affordable, and easy-to-use drugs. However, there is little doubt that a crucial first step is to define a needs-driven research and to have a development agenda to assist policy makers, funding agencies, and the research community in setting priorities to address effectively the needs of developing countries.
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