When it comes to the development of new drugs and vaccines for global health concerns, diseases that disproportionately affect people living in developing countries receive very little funding for new pharmaceutical products. A recent research article published in PLoS sheds more light on exactly what are the priorities for global health concerns when it comes to development of new products.

The authors find, that in 2007, just over US$2.5 billion was invested for “neglected disease” products. However, funding was mostly devoted for HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria, which collectively received nearly 80% of the total funding. High DALY burden diseases such as pneumonia and the diarrhoeal illnesses, collectively received less than 6% of total funding. By some people’s definition, HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria might not even meet the criteria for the definition of “neglected” because in fact they are relatively large burden diseases, have effective treatments currently on market, and have populations that are willing to pay for some drugs at least somewhere in the world. The neglected diseases that most people would agree are truly neglected, appear to remain to be neglected when it comes to new product development.

The other major finding from the study, is that 90% of the funding for “neglected diseases” was largely coming from public and private foundations, meaning that there has been very little increase interest in these concerns among private companies. This is probably not very surprising, and suggests that many of the new initiatives for global health may at least be effective in generating new revenues, albeit from public sources, for neglected diseases. Perhaps a partial victory?

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