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Joel Miller

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Why is there such little conversation on neglected diseases?

On TED, and elsewhere in the media, there is so much talk about how to build up the bottom billion, about how to build the economies to developing nations and distribution networks for the latest device (which may or may not be needed). However, there is very little talk about a subject that is of immense importance. Namely, how to tackle, prevent and eradicate the neglected diseases of the world. These disease hold people in poverty, prevent children from reaching their full potential, and modify the immune system in ways such that other diseases (such as malaria) are more likely to infect and lead to worse outcomes.

Please, if someone can explain to me why this subject is so overlooked, I would be so grateful. Also, if anyone has any insight in to how we can help decrease the burden from these disease, please fill me in.

Thank you.

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    Apr 16 2012: Joel,

    Just to clarify before I lauch into this, are you talking about the Neglected Tropical Diseases? Or just neglected diseases. In the last six months there has been a tremendous effort from a wide variety of parties to tackle the '10 of the 17 diseases classified as neglected tropical diseases by 2020'. These parties include GlaxoSmithKline, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to name just a few. They have already cured one of the diseases, though I can't remember which one and are moving swiftly and effectively on the others.

    I'm not sure if this helps illuminate much for you but to all those who think that Big Pharma is all about the bottom line and profits, it can sometimes suprise you to know what they actually do.

    Also it is worth looking at this article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13665501 for a little more info on what Big Pharma is trying to do.
  • Apr 15 2012: Goverments can do a lot to bring down the price of treatment, and increase access to treatment. Many of the diseases are curable and the most server effects can be avoided if treated early.
    Cost and access are huge chananges in developing world and more innovation is needed to help overcome them. Until governments and other organization see spending on health and education as an investment rather than a cost, positive change is unlikely. Although it make perfect ecomoic sence to invest more.
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    Apr 10 2012: Could I ask for clarification? There are tremendous efforts now to engage people in recognizing the importance of global health issues and great talent and energy going into wrestling with diseases including malaria, HIV, and those that can be addressed through vaccination or clean water. There is also great attention to preventing obesity and addressing behavioral factors that negatively affect health and quality of life.Is your question why those passionate about addressing global health are focusing on the ones that kill large numbers of people and those that can be approached in one-shot actions such as vaccination rather than focusing on others or on all disease? Or is your question about coverage on the local news specifically? Is your issue that we hear too much about some diseases and too little about others?
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    Apr 10 2012: Why don't you start one and see what happens?
  • Apr 8 2012: The question might be "why are the victims of well known and well understood diseases and conditions being ignored?" the streets of America and other "developed" countries are filled with the walking dead. Obviously the problem is not one of ability but of will. Why help people you don't think "deserve" it? Money and power. Sorry. The people we might "help" might just have to be killed off later by their saviours who don't know what to do with them.
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    Apr 8 2012: That's why those are Neglected.......
    Well isn't healthcare a business as well ?
    How much money can those disease generate you think?
    • Apr 15 2012: The problem is that heathcare is not just a business it is also a human need and healthy population is a good investment for all. Also with our very interconnect world someone's runny noise in Europe may makes it way to some remote village in PNG and give a person life treating reaction due to no previous immunity. But the same partways allow all desiease to spread, making gloable health treatment access important and worth investing in. Even to provide access to someone who can afford to pay for it. Pandemics are expensive to a society, a ecomemy and they are avoidable.
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        Apr 15 2012: Hi Mathew
        Understand what you are saying and agree to some extent....
        But what is the reality that I am asking.
        Are not most Pharma companies (so far they have been driving innovation) listed in Wall Street?
        Will the price of shares go up if any of the Pharma company declares it has come up with new effective medication for Malaria, Dengue or HIV which are healthcare challenge of poor countries?
        Which innovation in healthcare so far was driven by any government?
        • Apr 15 2012: Innovation is not just developing of new and effective medication, which do exist for Malaria at least, which I have had twice. But they also exist for many of the neglected diseases in the developing world such as diorior, tiphoid, influenza etc.. All of these have effective medication and are big killers and disablers in many countries. Governments have been innovative in improving access to treatment in the developed nations such as in Australia where I live now (via systems such as medicare and the pharcutical benifits scheam). Not saying there is a one size fits all approach but innovation to access medication in the developing world is just as, if not more important than the development of new types of treatment.
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        Apr 15 2012: My Malaria example is just an example. Yes now Malaria has got effective treatment uptil now but resiatant strains just knocking at the door....

        Ofcourse innovation applies all aspect. One can be innovative even with his/her day to day routine clerical job (this example comes because it is being perceived mostly as a job where scope for innovation is not there)....

        It seems we are moving toward chicken or egg first.......but from my side it's very clear, until a medication or treatment / preventive option is discovered then ACCESS doesn't come......and that discovery so far never ever was government funded innovation.

        Or may be I am ignorant of knowing....if you have example of such please share so that I can broaden my knowledge....Thanks
        • Apr 16 2012: There have been innovations in treatment of tropical ulcers, stopping the spread of kuru, snake bite anti venom and research in to fruit bat diseases that have cross species implications including to humans. This all has significant government funding and in some cases cross organizational funding in the forms of joint partnerships between universities, NGO's or business to develope, manufacture and distribute treatment. And I am only talking off the top of my head about Australian CSIRO examples. I'm sure there would have to be more when taking a broader spectrum look at what has been done around the world with government help and or leadership.
          Governments have multiple ways of manipulating institutions and business such as pharmsuticals companies to provide cheeper treatment and or to direct areas of research. Mechanisms such as scholarships, taxes and bulk buying of generic medication are just to name a few. To leave it up to business to decide everything that should be worked on then innovation would primarily be around profitable treatment and not cures for disease, this might be the case in some areas. However I'm sure it would be worse without government intervention. This goes back to my initial point that healthcare is not just a business but a human need and should be seen as a investment for all rather than a cost. Healthy populations become more wealthy and wealthy people can spend money on more profitable treatment for things such as baldness which in turn help Pharms bottom line and share price, it's all a big win win when taking a broader view.
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    Apr 8 2012: Only an altruistic person with time to spare for a new interest would participate in an effort which offers no chance to gain wealth, fame, power, or adulation. There are very few altruistic people on Earth. The only other people who might join in such an effort would be those who have been personally touched by the issue. Another problem is the esoteric nature of third-world diseases. For example, I would have no idea how to start, or meaningfully contribute to, a conversation about Malaria in Panama. I think that is partly why there is scant conversation about neglected diseases.