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WHO calls for more industry invesment in tick-borne disease treatments

By Gareth MacDonald+

07-Apr-2014
Last updated the 07-Apr-2014 at 17:24 GMT

Regular fogging to prevent dengue and other diseases transmitted by mosquitoes in Bali, Indonesia.
Regular fogging to prevent dengue and other diseases transmitted by mosquitoes in Bali, Indonesia.

Better data on the global burden of tick-borne illnesses may encourage profit driven drugmakers to spend their R&D budgets on much needed treatments says the WHO.

Diseases carried by bugs are responsible one million deaths each year according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which launched the 2014 World Health Day today with a campaign encouraging people to protect against infection.

But while preventative measures like mosquito nets and insect repellent play an import role, they can only do so much and there is still a need for the development of new medical treatments and drug industry investment said WHO information officer, Ashok Moloo.

He told in-Pharmatechnologist.com that: “There needs to be more research and development to develop better molecules for drugs to treat or control multi-drug resistant malaria in the coming years and to bring more anti-virals to supplement control efforts of vector-borne diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika virus etc.

“The pharmaceutical industry can also invest in vaccine development,” Moloo said.

Diseases of the poor

The drug industry is not usually slow to stop a gap in the market and in-Pharmatechnologist.com has lost count of the amount of times the phrase “unmet medical need” has featured in press releases announcing a company’s decision to invest in development of a new product.

The difference when it comes to developing treatments for vector-borne diseases is that there is less opportunity for profit and return on R&D investment Moloo said.

This [lower money making potential] is the main challenge for these diseases which mainly affect the poor who can least afford” he said, adding that “If the true burden of diseases is estimated and highlighted, some industry actors may want to invest in drug development.”

To that end the WHO believes that better monitoring is needed according to Moloo, who said: “Improved surveillance and better estimation of burden of these diseases will enable the industry to make a case.”

He also said that, while the implementation of regulatory incentives is a more complex challenge, the: “WHO’s prequalification programme is already collaborating with many national regulatory authorities for their capacity development in drug registration and regulation for quality control.”

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