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The World Can’t Wait: More Funding Needed for Research on Neglected Infectious Diseases

23 Dec 2008

Paul Chinnock

Source: Families USA (see original article or PDF of full report)

A report from Families USA, a national organization for health care consumers, details what US research agencies spend to combat eight neglected infectious diseases of poverty. The National Institutes of Health was found to have spent less than 1% of its 2007 budget on diseases that are prevalent among more than a quarter of the world’s population.

The spending of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is also reviewed in the report and, according to Families USA, is much too low.

“This report makes clear that our nation’s support for research on diseases in developing countries is far too low, given the enormous number of people affected by those diseases,” said Ron Pollack, the organization’s Executive Director.

Families USA says its 68-page report is the first analysis of unduplicated US research spending for these diseases. After duplicate funding was eliminated, the report notes that US spending for medical research by the four agencies on the eight neglected infection diseases in fiscal year 2007 totalled $366 million. It found the following with respect to the amount spent by federal agencies for research on each disease in fiscal year 2007.

  • Human African trypanosomiasis: Estimated 50,000-70,000 individuals infected; NIH spent $5.7 million on researching this disease. No money was spent by CDC, DOD, or USAID.

  • Buruli ulcer: No accurate estimate of the numbers affected but believed to be the third most common mycobacterial infection after TB and leprosy. NIH spent $656,000 on research. Nothing was spent by CDC, DOD, or USAID on this disease.

  • Chagas disease: Approximately nine million people are currently infected. NIH spent $11 million. Nothing was spent by CDC, DOD, or USAID.

  • Cholera: Approximately 236,000 new cases reported in 2006. NIH spent $15.7 million on cholera; nothing was spent by the other agencies.

  • Dengue: Approximately 50 million new cases are estimated to occur each year. NIH spent $26.8 million; another $2.8 million was spent by CDC and $14 million by DOD.

  • Leishmaniasis: Approximately 12 million people are currently infected. NIH spent $16.7 million, CDC spent $2.8 million, and DOD spent $6.2 million.

  • Malaria: About 247 million new cases of malaria are contracted each year. NIH spent $90.6 million on malaria, while CDC spent $6.5 million, DOD spent $23.1 million, and USAID spent $10 million.

  • Tuberculosis: There were more than 14 million new cases of active TB in 2005. NIH spent $117.3 million on this disease. CDC spent an additional $10 million, and USAID spent $5.4 million.

The report concludes: “Increased funding for neglected infectious disease research is needed across all of the agencies involved, and across the spectrum of research activities. This will require a public commitment to greater funding for all of the agencies that are engaged in this research, as well as a commitment to making research in these areas a priority. We have succeeded before by building on government investments in medical research. For example, we have all but eliminated pertussis and rubella by developing and using vaccines. We can have the same success with other diseases. The world cannot wait.”

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