There is a logic to the idea of neglected diseases. Historically the diseases poor people get--largely in the poorer parts of the world--haven't got enough attention from policy-makers in national governments and multilateral agencies precisely because they happen in 'invisible' areas to 'invisible' people. Obviously, pharmaceutical companies don't invest in drugs for these diseases because poor people can't pay for treatment, which takes them beyond the logic of the market.
But things are changing, not necessarily for the better. International agencies, philanthropic bodies and national governments, to some extent, are funding research to develop drugs for neglected diseases. The research is, however, being carried out by the pharmaceutical industry. The agenda is being set by these 'public-private partnerships'. Unfortunately, the interests of industry, not the interests of those afflicted, are central to this agenda. In a market-driven world, that's the way the cookie crumbles.
The only way this agenda can be supplanted is if public money is used to fund public research, leading to the development and delivery of drugs by public institutions. Unfortunately, that is not happening--not in India and not in other parts of the developing world.
That is why kala-azar, for example, continues to afflict many parts of Bihar, with no reasonable, workable solution, in sight in the absence of drugs and delivery systems. vibha varshney travelled through the impoverished district of East Champaran in Bihar to track the kala-azar pestilence and found overcrowded hospitals, missing doctors and a profound inability to deliver drugs and peripherals like diagnostic kits where they were most needed. And, of course, unhygienic conditions conducive to disease in the first place
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.