Drugs for “neglected diseases”
The world’s poorest people often suffer from diseases which are neglected by medical research. Against this background, Bayer HealthCare has designated a further lighthouse project to focus on tropical and neglected diseases. According to the WHO, more than 3.3 billion people, or in other words about half the world’s population, are threatened by diseases such as African sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, malaria and tuberculosis. These conditions place a lasting burden on entire families or village communities.
Bayer HealthCare participates in aid programs to provide drugs for the treatment of these diseases which are included in the list of essential medicines drawn up by the World Health Organization (WHO).
To tackle African sleeping sickness, the company has been supplying 10,000 ampoules annually containing the active substance suramin for single-entity therapy of an early stage of the disease since 2003. In 2009, the company additionally started supplying, at no charge, 400,000 tablets per year of its drug Lampit®; the active substance nifurtimox treats the advanced stage of African sleeping sickness. Since 2009, a further compound has been used in a combination therapy which opens up new perspectives in the treatment of late stages of the disease. The WHO included this combination therapy in the list of essential medicines in 2009.
Chagas disease, which is an infection transmitted in Latin America by a biting parasitic bug, claims around 14,000 lives every year. Bayer HealthCare has been collaborating with the WHO since 2002, annually supplying tablets of nifurtimox at no charge. In 2007, this cooperation agreement on the supply of 2.5 million tablets of Lampit® and support to the tune of US$1.5 million for training and distribution was extended for a further five years. “Our collaboration with the WHO is particularly important to US because it provides US with a specific way of reaching the people who are affected by these diseases,” Köstlin explains. Our donations of Lampit® and Germanin® to help control Chagas disease and African sleeping sickness are routed exclusively through the WHO. Bayer’s Donation Directive stipulates compliance with the WHO’s Guidelines for Drug Donations.
Tuberculosis is another “neglected disease.” Around nine million new cases of active tuberculosis (TB) are reported every year. The WHO estimates that two million people die of the disease annually. Bayer HealthCare is working with the TB Alliance (Global Alliance for TB Drug Development) on the clinical development of a therapy option involving combination therapy with moxifloxacin, a drug substance produced by Bayer, which could reduce the duration of tuberculosis treatment from the present six months to four months. This would represent a substantial improvement for affected patients, who often stop taking the protracted and thus expensive treatment before it is completed. If their studies are successful, Bayer HealthCare and the TB Alliance will work towards making moxifloxacin available to tuberculosis patients at affordable prices, especially in developing countries which have a heavy burden of disease. In addition, we joined the “Critical Path to TB Drug Regimens” (CPTR) initiative in March 2010. This collaboration between industry, the authorities and NGOs is intended to accelerate the clinical development of TB therapies and to achieve faster regulatory approval of combination therapies.