Jan 15, 2012

On neglected diseases

It's not merely polemic to note that all diseases that affect primarily the poor are, by definition, neglected. Cholera offers an object lesson: one hundred fifty years after John Snow took the handle off the Broad Street pump, more than a century after his suspicions of bacterial origin were confirmed, 60 years after antibiotic therapy was discovered, and 30 years after a safe and effective oral vaccine was developed, cholera remains—among the world's poorest—a leading infectious killer.
That is Paul Farmer and Louise C. Ivers in the article "Cholera in Haiti: The Equity Agenda and the Future of Tropical Medicine" published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Thought provoking . . .

Michael Kremer and Rachel Glennerster have written about this in their book Strong Medicine: Creating Incentives for Pharmaceutical Research on Neglected Diseases. From the book review in amazon:
In Strong Medicine, Michael Kremer and Rachel Glennerster offer an innovative yet simple solution to this worldwide problem: "Pull" programs to stimulate research. Here's how such programs would work. Funding agencies would commit to purchase viable vaccines if and when they were developed. This would create the incentives for vaccine developers to produce usable products for these neglected diseases. Private firms, rather than funding agencies, would pick which research strategies to pursue. After purchasing the vaccine, funders could distribute it at little or no cost to the afflicted countries. 

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