Public funding for neglected diseases takes a hit in 2010, public health advances in jeopardy

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A group that tracks funding for neglected diseases released its fourth annual report Wednesday, showing for the first time since 2007 a decrease in government and public spending in global health research and development. The Global Funding of Innovation for Neglected Diseases (G-FINDER) survey report, conducted by Policy Cures and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, found that funding from individual nations fell by $125 million in 2010, a six percent decrease.

“Government and other public funding is evaporating at a time of tremendous opportunity,” said Dr. Mel Spigelman, president and CEO of the TB Alliance. “We’re on the brink of delivering potentially revolutionary new treatments for tuberculosis, with similar great promise in other areas of global health. Now is the time to invest in critical life-saving technologies; the cutbacks described in this report could be disastrous for global health.”  Tuberculosis was actually one of the few areas to experience an increase in funding – a $30 million or six percent increase in 2010.

HIV research and development funding saw the greatest funding decrease, with a $70 million drop from the year before. Another casualty, Product Development Partnerships have seen their funding cut by almost $100 million over the past two years, responsible for some of the most advanced products in development many of which are nearing completion, according to a G-FINDER press release.

Large drops in funding were also seen for, “kinetoplastid diseases such as sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis and Chagas’ (down $16m, a drop of 10%), diarrheal diseases (down $18 million, a drop of 10 percent) and malaria (down $45 million, a drop of 8 percent) although the malaria cut reflected the upcoming conclusion of the RTS,S vaccine program,” according to the release.

The report shows that the only government to increase funding for neglected diseases R&D was the United Kingdom – with an increase in funding of $21 million, or 15 percent from 2009. Other major donors – including eight of the top 12 public funders – decreased their investments, according to the report, including:

  • the Netherlands down $11 million
  • Sweden down $14 million
  • United States down $75 million

Thanks to a substantial increase in investment from multinational pharmaceutical companies to the tune of $107 million, or a 28 percent increase in 2010, the overall impact of cuts will not be as bad as they could have been.

The G-FINDER project tracks public, private and philanthropic investment into 31 neglected diseases and 134 product areas for these diseases, including drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics, among others.  Two hundred forty organizations completed the survey in 2010. G-Finder supports a publicly searchable database not protected by confidentiality agreements.

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