Drug companies join forces to combat deadliest tropical diseases

The heads of 13 of the world’s biggest drug companies, brought together by Bill Gates, have agreed to donate more medicines and, in a rare spirit of co-operation, to work together to find new ones in an attempt to end many neglected tropical diseases that kill and maim some of the poorest people on the planet.
The 10 diseases targeted affect 1.4 billion people. They include lymphatic filariasis, river blindness, schistosomiasis and Chagas disease. Often the treatments that exist are ineffective, and sometimes even fatal.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is putting in $363m (£231m) over five years to fill gaps in research and drug distribution programmes for the control and, hopefully, elimination of these diseases, while the Department for International Development has announced £195m until 2015. USAid and the World Bank are also committing money and help. Endemic countries have also pledged to step up treatment.
"Maybe as the decade goes on, people will wonder if these should be called neglected diseases. Maybe as the milestones go on, we will call them just tropical diseases," Gates told the London meeting.
The most likely disease to be eliminated is Guinea worm, which has been the target of the Carter Foundation for decades. Last year, the former US president Jimmy Carter said they needed just $60m more to finish the job in the single remaining endemic country, South Sudan. That money will now be available.
The biggest contribution of the pharmaceutical companies, including Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline, the US groups Pfizer and Abbott and many others, are among drug donors. Those that had donation programmes are extending them to 2020.