Tropical pill

Medicines are for the rich, not for fighting tropical diseases afflicting millions in developing nations. Pharmaceutical companies seem to have but one agenda: greater profits

Published: Thursday 15 August 2002

-- 1,393 new medicines were marketed between 1975-1999. Only 1.14 per cent were for tropical diseases and tuberculosis

The global disease burden of these tropical diseases is more than 10 per cent

For non-infectious respiratory diseases (prevalent more in higher income countries) pharmaceutical companies spent US $307 million per one million DALYs - a measure of how dreaded the diseases is. Only US $3 million was spent on tropical diseases in contrast

There is a 13 fold greater chance of a medicine for central nervous system disorders or cancer being brought to market than for neglected tropical diseases like dengue and malaria

All the 13 medicines for tropical diseases, such as malaria, marketed between 1975-1999 were listed on the World Health Organisation's 'Essential Drugs List'. Only two per cent of the the rest 1,393 (essentially 'non-essential drugs') found their way to the list

According to the US National Institute of Health, taxpayer-funded scientists conducted 55 percent of the research projects that led to the discovery and development of the global top five selling drugs in 1995

Investment in research for malaria, a major tropical disease, at US $42 per fatal case, is more than 80 times lower than that for HIV/AIDS and 20 times lower than that for asthma

Sources: 1. Patrice Trouiller et al 2002, 'Drug development for neglected diseases: a deficient market and a public-health policy failure', Lancet 2002; Vol 359 p2188-94
2. Anon,, as seen on July 18, 2002

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