We achieved the Guinness World Record for most medication donated in 24 hours.

Photo: © GSK / Marcus Perkins

Five years ago, the pharmaceutical industry joined the global health community in committing itself to supporting the ambitious goal of eliminating or controlling 10 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020. This commitment, known as the London Declaration, has resulted in unprecedented global action and progress in the fight against NTDs.

2017 marks the five-year anniversary of the London Declaration. This milestone is an opportunity to pause and reflect on the result of efforts to control and eliminate these diseases – what has worked and what hasn’t and what more needs to be done to achieve the vision of a world without NTDs.

Progress since 2012

1.8 billion treatments donated by the pharmaceutical industry in 2016 alone

The pharmaceutical industry has made substantial progress over the past 5 years in living up to the commitments of the London Declaration. In 2016 alone, the industry donated 1.8 billion treatments for NTDs, up from 970 million treatments in 2011. Thus, in 2016, over a billion people received treatment for at least one NTD. Additionally, breakthroughs in new tools, including innovations in disease mapping, have accelerated progress against NTDs by improving targeting of drug delivery and making treatment programmes more effective. As a result, five countries have been validated by WHO as having eliminated trachoma as a public health problem: Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mexico (2017), Morocco (2016) and Oman (2012). In 2017, four additional countries – the Marshall Islands, Thailand, Togo and Tonga – eliminated LF as a public health problem, bringing the total to ten countries (with Cambodia, the Cook Islands, Maldives, Niue, Sri Lanka and Vanuatu). Onchocerciasis has been eliminated in nearly all of the Americas, with Colombia (2013), Ecuador (2014), Guatemala (2016) and Mexico (2015) recently having been declared ‘onchocerciasis-free’.

To mark the fifth anniversary of the London Declaration earlier this year, all the original signatories reaffirmed their pledges to do their part in combating NTDs and encouraged others to do the same.

Power of partnership

The progress that has been achieved would not have been possible without the intricate public–private partnerships that fuel the global effort to eliminate NTDs.

These partnerships include coordination with NGOs, the governments of countries in which these diseases are endemic and, importantly, the front-line health workers who help ensure that donated treatments reach the people who need them most.

This unprecedented global partnership has been recognized in the Guinness Book of Records for the most medication donated within 24 hours.

Reaffirming our commitment

The original signatories to the London Declaration remain steadfast in their commitment to eliminate NTDs and to contribute to SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the London Declaration, we promise to:

Reaffirm our commitment to ending NTDs

  • We reaffirm our respective pledges under the London Declaration on NTDs, including our commitments for drug donation and improved diagnostics.
  • We pledge to explore new, innovative ways to accelerate global progress against NTDs, ensuring that our activities are sustained and sustainable, have a real impact and are increasingly owned and directed by the countries on the front line of the fight against NTDs.

Collaborate to develop and deliver life-saving interventions

  • We will accelerate R&D, including through innovative public–private mechanisms, to identify the new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics necessary to ensure long-term control and elimination of NTDs.
  • We will play our part, in close collaboration with the governments of endemic countries, to strengthen the supply chain, from the first to the last mile. We encourage the global development community to work with the governments of endemic countries to ensure that adequate resources are allocated for full use industry donations.

Advocate for awareness, resources and improved health systems

  • We will use our voices to raise awareness about the resources needed to remove the two primary risk factors for NTDs – poverty and exposure to disease. Ensuring access to clean water and basic sanitation, improving living conditions, ensuring vector control, health and education and strengthening health systems in endemic areas are all essential for NTD elimination.

A breakthrough in LF elimination: Merck announces an expanded donation in support of new treatment!

Two ladies are talking, while one washes her leg.

Photo: © GSK / Marcus Perkins

A new treatment, co-administering ivermectin, DEC, and albendazole (IDA), has shown to be superior to standard two drug approaches. This finding was so striking that an expert group convened and developed a pathway to rapidly evaluate the safety of this approach in MDA programmes for LF. Now over 10,000 people across 4 countries have been treated, demonstrating safety.

After thorough review, WHO recommends IDA to accelerate LF elimination. In response, Merck announced an expansion of the MECTIZAN® Donation Program (MDP) to reach up to an additional 100 million people per year through 2025. IDA use should be targeted to achieve LF elimination with high coverage and compliance, strengthening monitoring and evaluation to demonstrate impact. Countries eligible for the donation (currently using DEC and albendazole) could decrease MDA rounds and achieve elimination more rapidly releasing communities from risk, and resources, both human and financial, to target additional health and development challenges.

“LF is on the short list of diseases that are targeted for elimination in the World Health Organization’s Roadmap on Neglected Tropical Diseases.With the evidence put forward in the WHO’s new guidelines, we’re expanding the MECTIZAN® Donation Program to bring improved health and hope to millions of people as we work toward the day when LF is no longer a threat.”

Kenneth C. Frazier, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Merck

This is part of Reaching a Billion, the fifth progress report of the London Declaration on NTDs. Read the full report.