Medicine to fight neglected diseases becoming more available

The Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development released new analysis on Thursday which found that the number of drugs approved annually to treat neglected diseases worldwide nearly doubled since 2000.

Between 2000 and 2008, roughly 2.6 new drugs were approved each year for the treatment of neglected diseases, which are generally most prevalent in developing countries that do not have the means to develop treatments to combat the diseases. The average number of drugs approved annually to fight neglected diseases has nearly doubled to five approvals annually since 2009.

"The trend in approvals is clearly going in the right direction, but annual R&D spending to treat neglected diseases has leveled off at $3 billion in total, after rising rapidly from 2000 to 2007, which is a cause of concern," Joshua Cohen, assistant professor at Tufts CSDD and principal investigator on the study, said.

This presents a new challenge. More medicines are available to treat common, but preventable, diseases. If funding isn't there to invest in making the medicine available to the areas that need them, however, the people that need them will continue to suffer.

"While increased approvals may result in greater access to new medicines, policy makers need to ensure that safe, effective, and easy-to-administer products are adopted by health care systems, that they are affordable, and that they reach the people who need them," Cohen said.

The majority of the drugs being approved, 81 percent, are for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. If an increase in funding occurs, areas in-need will have more advanced technology available to treat common, yet curable, diseases.