Although neglected diseases account for 11% of global disease burden, they are the target of only a small portion of the new drugs being developed each year.
Between January 2012 and September 2018. 256 new drugs entered the market, but only eight (3.1%) were developed to treat neglected diseases. This value exceeds the ratio for 1975-99, which was 1.1%, but is lower than 4.3% recorded in 2000-11.
The term "neglected diseases" refers to malaria, diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis and 20 neglected tropical diseases recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO), such as, inter alia, dengue, chikungunya, Chagas and leishmaniasis.
A current study of drugs and vaccines for neglected diseases has been published Lancet infectious diseases. Signed by two scientists associated with the University of São Paulo (USP) in Brazil, it shows that much remains to be done, especially with regard to neglected tropical diseases (NTD).
NDT was not the target of any of the new chemical units approved in 2012-2018, although two were related to malaria and tuberculosis. New drugs for tuberculosis (bedaquiline) with an innovative mechanism of action and for malaria Plasmodium vivax (tafenoquine) are the first innovations to treat appropriate targets in the last 40 and 60 years, respectively.
"The other six products registered in 2012-2018 for this group of diseases are alternating medications, biological drugs or new preparations. Alternative drugs, for example, have been used to treat other diseases and have been approved for new clinical applications. Let's call a new chemical, which means the result of innovation, and therefore does not contain any active molecule previously approved for clinical use – said Adriano Andricopulo, professor at the University of São Paulo at the Institute of Physics of São Carlos (IFSC-USP) and one of the authors of the article.
The second author is Leonardo L. G. Ferreira, who received a doctoral scholarship and postdoctoral scholarship from FAPESP.
Both researchers are also associated with the Center for Research and Innovation in Biodiversity and Drug Detection (CIBFar), one of the Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers (RIDC) funded by FAPESP.
The WHO is committed to eliminating the NTD epidemic by 2030. In addition, in the London Declaration of 2012, NTD sets out action plans for the control, elimination or elimination of ten NTDs by 2020.
"Due to the introduction of state-of-the-art science and technology, drug research and the development of neglected diseases have evolved considerably. Nevertheless, there is a deep gap between the burden of disease and the development of therapeutic agents for such diseases "- wrote the authors.
However, they note that the list of approved new chemical entities will expand in 2019. With the development of fexinidazole, the most advanced oral drug for human African trypanosomiasis. "The drug is currently being tested for Chagas disease," said Andricopulo.
Andricopulo is the principal investigator of one of the five proposals approved in the invitation issued by FAPESP in the United Kingdom Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Newton Fund for NTD Joint Center Partnerships. Over the next three years, the groups led by Andricopulo and Kevin David Read of the Dundee Medicine Department (DDU) in Scotland will study the use of bioactive natural products in the discovery of new drugs for the treatment of Leishmaniasis and Chagas.