Neglected diseases less neglected

There is a some good news for “neglected diseases” in the latest research by the George Institute in Australia, to identify funding for research and development into illnesses traditionally receiving little support from pharmaceutical companies. 

Nearly $3bn was spent last year in the search for new medicines in areas such as malaria, pneumonia and dengue. Drug companies are providing support, and the governments of two of the richer developing countries with many such illnesses – Brazil and India – are for the first time among the “top five” public sector funders, as they take growing responsibility for their domestic disease burden.

The bad news is that funding is stagnant and remains a tiny fraction of the efforts invested into other, richer world, diseases. But at least developing country governments and companies are increasingly taking up the slack. Over time, that may help them not only tackle problems at home but help develop local expertise in drug development that will challenge the dominance of western pharmaceutical companies in the future.

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Margaret McCartney is a Glasgow-based GP and FT Weekend columnist. She started writing for the Life and Arts section in 2005 and moved to the magazine in 2008. She also has her own blog: www.margaretmccartney.com/blog

Clive Cookson has been a science journalist for the whole of his working life. He joined the FT in 1987. Clive, the FT's science editor, picks out the research that everyone should know about. He also discusses key policy issues, from R&D funding to science education.

Andrew Jack is pharmaceuticals correspondent, covering the industry and public health issues. He has been a journalist with the FT for 19 years, based in London, Paris and Moscow

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