SAO PAULO, Brazil - Although neglected diseases account for 11% of the global disease burden, they are targeted by only a small proportion of the new drugs developed every year.
Between January 2012 and September 2018, a total of 256 new drugs entered the market, but only eight (3.1%) were designed to treat neglected diseases. This value exceeds the proportion for 1975-99, which was 1.1%, but falls short of the 4.3% mark recorded for 2000-11.
The term "neglected diseases" refers tomalaria, diarrheic diseases, tuberculosis, and 20 neglected tropical diseases recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO), such as dengue,chikungunya, Chagas andleishmaniasis, among others.
An up-to-date survey of drugs and vaccines for neglected diseases has been published inThe Lancet Infectious Diseases. Signed by two researchers affiliated with the University of Sao Paulo (USP) in Brazil, it shows that much remains to be done, especially with regard to neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
NTDs were targeted by none of the new chemical entities approved between 2012 and 2018, although two targetedmalariaand tuberculosis. The new drugs for tuberculosis (bedaquiline), with a novel action mechanism, and for Plasmodium vivaxmalaria(tafenoquine) are the first innovations in treatment for their respective targets in the last 40 and 60 years, respectively.
"The other six products registered between 2012 and 2018 for this group of diseases are repurposed drugs, biologicals or new formulations. The repurposed drugs, for example, were used to treat other diseases and have been approved for new clinical uses. None is what we call a new chemical entity, meaning the result of innovation and hence not containing any active molecule previously approved for clinical use," saidAdriano Andricopulo, a professor at the University of Sao Paulo's Sao Carlos Physics Institute (IFSC-USP) and one of the authors of the article.
The other author is Leonardo L. G. Ferreira, who has received a doctoral scholarship and a postdoctoral scholarship from FAPESP.