UN Health Agency Expands Programme To Fight Neglected Tropical Diseases
Buoyed by its success in saving an estimated 110,000 people who would otherwise have died from sleeping sickness over
the past five years, the United Nations health agency today expanded its programme to fight some of the most neglected
tropical diseases that destroy the lives and health of poor people.
This expansion is possible thanks to a renewed collaboration with sanofi-aventis, the world’s number 3 pharmaceutical
company, which has agreed to donate medicines and financial support worth $25 million over five years to the UN World
Health Organization (WHO).
This collaboration builds on a previous agreement in 2001 between WHO and Aventis (now sanofi-aventis) to prevent deaths
due to sleeping sickness, a parasitic disease spread by the bite of the tsetse fly that is fatal if not treated and
causes bouts of fever, headaches, joint pains and itching, and in later stages confusion, sensory disturbances and poor
coordination, including disturbance of the sleep cycle.
“This project shows the power of collaboration to make a positive difference in the lives of poor people,” WHO Acting
Director-General Anders Nordström said. “By actively seeking out people who show the early symptoms of these diseases,
we can ensure that they get the treatment they need before their symptoms worsen.”
Sanofi-aventis will donate $5 million in drugs to treat sleeping sickness and a further $20 million in financial support
for the control of neglected tropical diseases, such as leishmaniasis, a skin disease that leaves lifelong ugly scars,
Buruli ulcer, which destroys the skin and soft tissues, and the sometimes fatal Chagas disease, an insect-transmitted
illness that attacks the heart, oesophagus, colon and the peripheral nervous system.
All four diseases are among the most neglected in the world. The people who suffer from them are almost all poor
inhabitants of remote, rural areas.
The new project will take a common approach to detecting, preventing and treating the diseases, actively seeking out
people who show early symptoms and giving them effective treatment before the symptoms worsen.
“The excellent results obtained by working together with WHO to combat sleeping sickness make us very confident that the
same approach will produce similar results in other diseases,” sanofi-aventis President Jean-François Dehecq said. “With
this new programme, we hope to contribute to saving many more lives and we are proud to be one of the major WHO
collaborators to fight neglected tropical diseases.”
Sanofi-aventis is the number 1 pharmaceutical company in France and in Europe.