MSF Intervention on Neglected Tropical Diseases at 132nd WHO Executive Board
Michelle Childs, Médecins Sans Frontières International
Médecins Sans Frontières welcomes the renewed attention and focus on Neglected Tropical Diseases, and the ambitious goals in the WHO roadmap aimed at significantly reducing disease burden. MSF would urge member states to consider three aspects, where the roadmap and the Resolution could be improved, however:
First, for most diseases, the roadmap rightly targets both reduced transmission and intensified case management. For others, however, the focus is put solely on the reduction of transmission. MSF considers this to be misguided: a focus on disease control should not be done to the exclusion of treating people today. Around seven million people live with chronic Chagas disease globally, for example, yet access to care and treatment is barely mentioned in the roadmap.
Second, although donations help address treatment needs for some diseases, they can not be seen as a global solution for all 17 diseases listed as neglected tropical diseases. Fewer than five percent of patients in need are covered by the drug donation for visceral leishmaniasis, for example. Strategies other than donations that allow access to quality-assured affordable drugs should also be pursued. The Resolution should therefore focus on the need to secure sources of quality-assured, affordable medicines in sufficient quantities, whether through donations or through encouraging the availability of affordably priced products.
Finally, MSF notes the mention of the need for new and better tools for NTDs in the resolution. As NTDs typically affect the poorest, the market for new products is not considered lucrative by pharmaceutical companies and private investments into neglected disease research and development are therefore minimal. However this reference is vague. Encouragement is not enough. The Resolution should clearly urge WHO, Member States and their international partners to set a clear and specific research and development agenda for NTDs to promote mechanisms that spur innovation for diseases with no lucrative market that are in accordance with the proposals made by the Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development: Financing and Coordination.