For many years we have focused research and development on the elimination of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). NTDs affect more than one billion people in developing countries, causing illness, disability and death. This is an increasing burden for over-stretched health systems.
Uniting to combat NTDs partnership
In January 2012, we joined other global pharmaceutical companies and leading organisations, including the World Health Organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UK Department for International Development, US Agency for International Development and the World Bank, in a new united effort to support countries to defeat Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). Together, this coalition supports the goals set out by WHO to control or eliminate 10 of the 17 NTDs by 2020.
Over the past year, this partnership has made significant progress. More than 40 countries have delivered detailed plans to control or eliminate NTDs and major pharmaceutical countries have donated more than one billion treatments to meet 100 per cent of drug requests by endemic countries. These successes are outlined in a report, From Promises to Progress, released on 16 January 2013 in advance of the first anniversary of the landmark London Declaration, which brought the partnership together.
LF is transmitted by mosquitoes. It is more commonly known as elephantiasis, a name which graphically describes the unsightly hardening and thickening of the skin that frequently accompanies massive swelling in the arms, legs, breasts and genitals.
The disease is one of the principal causes of permanent disability worldwide, affecting more than 120 million people in tropical and sub-tropical areas of Africa, Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East and the Americas. It carries with it a high social burden for those trying to live in a society that they do not always feel accepted in because their appearances are considered shameful.
Read about Usha - a long-term sufferer of LF
Soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections (intestinal worms) can stunt growth and cause anaemia and malnutrition. They can impact a child’s ability to learn and affect their performance at school.
Three major intestinal worms - roundworm, whipworm and hookworm - are among the most widespread parasites worldwide. Together these parasites inflict a heavy health burden in tropical and subtropical countries.
Fortunately there are tools that offer hope. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), de-worming can result in immediate improvements in child health, leading to increased growth rates, better school attendance and performance, improved iron status, and a decline in anaemia. WHO recommends treatment of all children in endemic areas with anthelminthic drugs - such as our anti-parasite medicine albendazole - to reduce and control intestinal worm infection and illness.
How we are tackling LF and intestinal worms
We are an active partner in one of the world’s biggest and boldest public health initiatives, led by the WHO, to rid the world of LF. As part of our commitment we have donated nearly three billion treatments of our anti-parasitic treatment albendazole, alongside grants and other support for the global initiative.
In support of the WHO goals we expanded our albendazole donation programme which targets not only LF but also intestinal worms.
Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK said: “I am delighted to announce that GSK is part of this united effort to free future generations from the burden of neglected tropical diseases. Through this new partnership, we have both the means and the energy to strike a decisive blow against disease in the world’s poorest countries.”
By expanding this programme to run for an additional five years we will be able to donate two billion more albendazole tablets by 2020 to treat intestinal worms. This will help achieve the WHO’s target of reaching 75% of school children globally who live in countries where intestinal worms are endemic.
We have also reaffirmed our commitment to supply all the albendazole needed to treat the 1.3 billion people in over 72 countries who are at risk, until lymphatic filariasis is eliminated as a public health problem.
From 2012 we have committed to donate up to one billion albendazole tablets every year until 2020 to help fight LF and intestinal worms.