The stakeholders of Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) congratulate William C. Campbell, Satoshi Omura and Youyou Tu for the prestigious award of the 2015 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

Women making shell decorations in a rehabilitation group in Mandakadu, Tamil Nadu, India

Groundbreaking discoveries to fight disabling diseases

Their discoveries were ground breaking in the fight against river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, two of the ten diseases around which commitments were made as part of London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases, and malaria which is frequently found in the same communities.  The discovery by Drs Campbell and Omura led to the development by Merck & Co., Inc., of the anti-parasitic drug MECTIZAN (ivermectin).

Over 100 million people treated in one year alone!

Thanks to the generous donation of MECTIZAN by Merck & Co., Inc., in 2014 alone, over 100 million people were treated for river blindness in Africa, Latin America and Yemen, protecting affected communities from going blind. Nearly 150 million treatments were approved for lymphatic filariasis in 2014, with the goal of stopping the disease in its tracks and preventing it from progressing to lymphedema and causing disability.

Commenting on the 2015 Nobel Prize, the Chair of the Stakeholders’ Working Group of Uniting to Combat NTDs, Dr Julie Jacobson, congratulated the Nobel winners:

“Their discovery and perseverance have led to one of the largest public health programs ever attempted.  Their drug is the cornerstone of the strategy working to eliminate these parasitic diseases that have so long plagued the lives of people around the world. Now we just have to be sure we get this free drug to the people who need it.”

The distribution of Mectizan

© Kate Holt / Sightsavers

The many stakeholders that comprise Uniting to Combat NTDs urge all countries where NTDs are affecting their populations to mobilize domestic investments so that drugs that have been generously donated by pharmaceutical companies can reach the men, women and children that need them. For our part, we remain committed to supporting the control and elimination goals through financial contributions, research and development for improved health tools, donation of medicines and program implementation, to address NTDs. But more partners are needed to be successful.

An opportunity exists to leverage the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals, with NTDs having been included for the first time.  We urge stakeholders to ensure that the NTDs indicator “number of people requiring interventions against NTDs” is included in the final list of indicators to ensure accountability and action towards results.  What gets measured gets done and together we can do it!

Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases

Established in 2012, Uniting to Combat NTDs is a collective of invested, interested and dedicated group of partners that came together to provide different dimensions of support toward attaining the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 2020 goals for 10 NTDs as documented in the London Declaration. The collective work of Uniting to Combat NTDs complements WHO’s direct collaboration with endemic countries and builds on the ongoing work of several disease-specific partnerships. The 10 diseases covered by the London Declaration include river blindness, Guinea worm, lymphatic filariasis, blinding trachoma, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminths, leprosy, Chagas disease, visceral leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness.

To find out more about the work of Uniting to Combat NTDs and to read the latest global progress on lymphatic filiriasis and river blindness please see the report on our website.

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