Uniting to combat neglected tropical diseases

Today marked a significant event for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)--a call to arms of sorts.

Thirteen pharmaceutical companies; the US, UK, and UAE governments; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the World Bank; and other global health organizations announced a new, coordinated push to work with the World Health Organization and endemic countries to fight 10 NTDs by 2020.

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In London today, I participated in a meeting of partners who came together to stand united in this fight against lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), river blindness, blinding trachoma, intestinal parasites, schistosomiasis, leprosy, Guinea worm, visceral leishmaniasis, sleeping sickness, and Chagas disease. These are diseases that threaten more than one billion people in developing countries, causing tremendous illness, disability and death. They tax a heavy burden on already over-stretched and under-resourced health systems; yet they are diseases that we have the tools to fight!

Speaking on behalf of all the industry partners, GSK's CEO, Sir Andrew Witty, announced expanded and extended donations of medicines for control, elimination, or eradication of these 10 diseases.Collectively, our industry will supply all the drugs needed through the end of the decade.

In addition to donation of necessary medicines, pharma partners pledged to advance research and development to find new and improved treatments for NTDs.

I have worked with GSK's albendazole donation program for over 10 years, and today made me even prouder to be a part of this global effort.All too often in my travels to endemic countries, I've seen children facing multiple diseases:a child carrying a heavy intestinal worm infection, for example, also living in fear of severe disfigurement from LF.It therefore makes good sense for us to work together. With flexibility and eagerness, we can and will make a marked difference in the communities threatened by these once neglected diseases.