Pharmaceutical companies are being criticized by some people for not producing medicine that cures diseases common to the developing world because there supposedly isn’t enough money to be made in such areas.
The criticism comes after pharmaceutical company Canofi Pasteur made the announcement last month that it would stop its production of Africa’s only anti-venom for snakebites.
It is widely speculated that the company put an end to this production because it was not making enough money in Africa. Some estimates show that up to 125,000 people will die every year because of the decision.
Diseases and injuries such as snake bites, dengue, chagas and African sleeping sickness are all considered neglected tropical diseases (NTD). Nearly one out of every six people will require treatment for at least one NTD at some point during their lives.
Estimates show that NTDs could be prevented for a yearly expense of somewhere between $300 million and $400 million by the pharmaceutical industry.
While the entire industry is worth about $300 billion, pharmaceutical companies don’t believe that the expense is worth it. Simply put, treating NTDs won’t earn pharmaceutical companies as much money as they can by focusing on other diseases.
Since 2010, pharmaceutical companies have only contributed 12% of all global funding toward fighting NTDs.
Many analysts say that the best way to get pharmaceutical companies to develop and produce treatments for NTDs would be through government intervention. The government could provide incentives and subsidies in order to get pharmaceutical companies to conduct research and development in less profitable areas of medicine.
Meanwhile, non-government organizations have started taking their own action against NTDs. The London Declaration on NTDs has the goal of completely erasing or better controlling 17 major NTDs by the end of 2020.
However, the group is having difficulties in meeting its proposed timeline.
Other development partnerships are trying to bring organizations together in order to collectively pool resources for the development of medicine to fight NTDs. Such partnerships have accounted for the development of more than 70% of medicine designed to fight NTDs since 2000.
One partnership called DNDi has already produced six new treatments for NTDs, and it has 15 additional drugs still in development. The partnership is working with limited resources and without an official laboratory. Luckily, they have the support of 20 pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and 50 universities worldwide.
Unfortunately, the partnerships are not enough, and many pharmaceutical companies have been known to join into partnerships in order to try and remove the responsibility that has seemingly been placed upon them to develop such treatment medications.
Unless the pharmaceutical companies start taking real action, NTDs will continue to be a severe problem for the developing world.