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Gates: pledges $363 million fight neglected tropical diseases

[1/31/2012] [Robinsan Jeyaratnam ]

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Less than a week after the the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it would give $750 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the foundation has pledged $363 million to target neglected tropical diseases over five years.

The Gates Foundation, along with 13 pharmaceutical companies, the World Bank, other global health organizations and the governments of the U.S., U.K. and United Arab Emirates, announced the effort Monday. It's called the London Declaration on Neglected Diseases.

The goal is to eliminate 10 neglected tropical diseases by the end of the decade by expanding the drug donations, providing about $785 million to support research and development, and efforts to address treatment.

The diseases include Guinea worm, lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), blinding trachoma (an infectious eye disease), sleeping sickness and leprosy, soil-transmitted helminthes (intestinal worms), schistosomiasis (parasitic infection), river blindness, Chagas disease (parasitic disease) and visceral leishmaniasis (sandfly infection).

The 13 pharmaceutical companies have signed on to donate an average of 1.4 billion treatments, such as tablets to treat elephantiasis, donations to treat sleeping sickness, and drugs to treat worm infection.

In the past, drug companies have been accused of ignoring tropical diseases in favor of developing drugs targeted towards first-world health problems.

The participating drug companies are: AstraZeneca, Abbott, Bayer HealthCare AG, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eisai, Gilead, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, MSD, Novartis, Pfizer and Sanofi.

As part of the effort against neglected diseases, the Gates foundation has pledged $23.3 million toward eradicating Guinea worm. The foundation named after Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, has invested more than $100 million in the effort to eradicate Guinea worm disease.

Guinea worm is a debilitating disease which is only in three countries. If eradicated, the Guinea worm disease would become the second disease wiped out by mankind. The first is smallpox.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation will together contribute $40 million to end Guinea worm disease by 2015, the Carter Center, based in Atlanta, Georgia, announced Monday.

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