GLOBAL depression nowadays seem insurmountable. Millions continue to die each year due to what could have been preventable and curable diseases. Neglected tropical diseases or NTDs, such as leishmaniasis, Chagas, trypanosomiasis, trachoma, leprosy, malaria, yellow fever and others continue to disable nearly one billion people worldwide.

They are described as “neglected” because these diseases, which could have been eliminated in the first place, persist in the poorest and the most marginalized nations,although they have been eliminated, and thus forgotten, in wealthier societies. The diseases thrive in impoverished settings where there is limited access to basic health care. Despite the severe pain and life-long disabilities these diseases cause, they are still given little attention.

For some of the NTDs, there are already simple and affordable diagnostic tools available. Yet, having skilled people to administer such tools is another story. Medications available to cure NTDs are archaic, toxic, expensive and difficult to take, which can be lethal if taken wrongly.

With the advancement of science, technology and medicine, it is very disappointing to note that few drugs have been developed for diseases commonly affecting the poor. For the past 30 years, the pharmaceutical industry has focused its researches on the development of “lifestyle drugs,” neglecting the development of NTD drugs. Only around one percent of the total drugs developed were intended for NTDs, and the rest were for lifestyle drugs and drugs with no therapeutic advancements.

Pharmaceutical companies argued that it is too risky and too costly for them to invest on low-income NTDs. NTDs therefore do not represent a profitable market at all.

Preserving the 'deed of gratitude'

In sum, pharmaceutical investments are fixed to satisfy market feasibility and income generation. Expectedly, drug development outcomes follow the power of the viable market. Hundreds of millions are being spent to formulate medications for non- infectious diseases compared to less than five million on tropical respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis. Drugs for cardiovascular and nervous system-related diseases account for nearly half of the overall pharmaceutical research investments.

Amidst the global focus on human rights, oil prices, security and other international affairs, the microbial world continues to evolve and threaten humanity.

As of this writing, there are still many people wallowing in poverty who continue to be deprived of adequate and affordable health needs. The lack of effective and affordable medications may lead to the reemergence and the evolution of drug-resistant NTDs.

It is high time that researches focusing on new, practical and effective diagnostics and treatments as well as effective ways to implement NTD’s be realized—and actualized. Multi-drug resistivity must also be addressed, as well as the development of shortened medications for tuberculosis. International policies concerning the development of new drugs must be implemented to correct the imbalances.

Initiative for a non-profit development and research of new drugs for the diseases of the poor must be taken into considerations. Local authorities must compel pharmaceutical companies to undertake researches toward the eradication of neglected diseases.

In this light, it will frame the pharmaceutical industry to develop life-saving drugs instead of lifestyle panaceas.


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