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Focusing on new medicines for the developing world

July / August 2011 | Volume 10, Issue 4

Headshot of Dr. Mary Moran
Photo courtesy of Dr. Mary Moran

Dr. Mary Moran

By Andrew Palos

Developing countries bear a disproportionate share of the health burden and the growth of neglected tropical diseases in these countries is consistent with this fact. Even with major advances in treatment and drugs, often the solutions to these diseases that affect the developing country are too expensive, ineffective or no longer produced.

That’s according to Dr. Mary Moran, founder and director of Policy Cures, an independent group that provides research, information and decision making tools based on empirical evidence for those developing treatments for neglected diseases. Moran visited NIH to present findings on trends and current landscapes for research and development expenditures for neglected diseases and other conditions with insufficient investments.

Moran explained the importance of creating conditions that would allow for product development in the area of neglected diseases. Researchers and investors must abide by simplifying principles to enable economics to be managed in a way that can provide for neglected disease R&D. Beyond simply working out how to finance R&D for neglected diseases, funders considering investing in neglected diseases should know where and how much to invest. "There are answers for some of these diseases, we just need to get the funding behind it," she explained.

Policy Cures has developed an online data base, G-FINDER, which provides data from 218 organizations on neutral, comparable and broad information on 31 neglected diseases and 134 product areas at all levels of R&D to help inform funders. Policy Cures receives private and public funding to improve G-FINDER and its data. Moran noted that funding for neglected diseases has seen a steady increase since 2007 even though total investment into R&D may have dropped off from year to year. Even when clinical trial sites receive R&D-sufficient funding, it is important to maximize the efficiency of every dollar. Trial sites throughout sub-Saharan Africa vary in their efficiency with some sites seeing no demand for some services being offered, or an over-demand of services in other areas of the region.

Moran emphasized the important role policy analysis plays when deciding how to tackle the problem of funding R&D for neglected diseases. R&D activity should result in a global spread of funders, developers and treatments, she concluded.

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