Researchers find deadly gaps in drug development for neglected diseases

There is a persistent deficiency in the development of new therapeutics for neglected diseases, according to a study recently published in The Lancet Global Health.

According to researchers with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, Médecins Sans Frontières, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases and several universities, of the 850 new drugs and vaccines approved for all diseases, only 37 were for neglected diseases. The research team found that four percent of approved new drugs are for neglected diseases even though the diseases represent an 11 percent global health burden.

Between 2000 and 2011, only four out of 336 brand-new drugs approved for all diseases were for neglected diseases.

"Although strides have been made in the last decade, we still see deadly gaps in new medicines for some of the world's least visible patients," Nathalie Strub-Wourgaft, the medical director of DNDi, said. "We need to get more treatment candidates, (new chemical entities) or existing ones for repurposing, into and through the R&D pipeline to fundamentally change the way we manage these diseases."

The study found that only one percent of clinical trials in development were for neglected diseases as of December 2011, close to 80 percent of neglected diseases have R&D gaps and only five new chemical entities for neglected diseases are projected to be registered over the next six years.

"Our patients are still waiting for true medical breakthroughs," Jean-Hervé Bradol, a co-author of the study. "People are still suffering and dying from these diseases, and healthcare providers must be able to offer all patients -- irrespective of their ability to pay -- the best treatment possible. Only then will we say that we have made progress."