Drugmakers in Davos shift
focus to chronic diseases of poor
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[January 18, 2017]
By Ben Hirschler
DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Two decades
after they were spurred into action to tackle AIDS in Africa, global
drugmakers said on Wednesday they would invest an initial $50 million
over three years to fight cancer and other non-communicable diseases in
Twenty-two companies, including Pfizer, Merck, Novartis, Roche,
Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, will contribute funds and expertise to
the project, which is backed by the World Bank.
The so-called Access Accelerated initiative was announced at the
World Economic Forum in Davos and aims to improve both treatment and
In the past, the focus of healthcare in poorer parts of the world
has been on fighting infectious diseases, whether through
vaccinations, drug programs or the roll-out of anti-malarial bednets.
Today, however, the healthcare burden is shifting as deaths from
these conditions decline and people in increasingly urbanized
populations succumb to diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart
and lung disorders fueled by Western lifestyles.
Such non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are responsible for nearly 70
percent of all deaths worldwide and almost three quarters of them
occur in low- and middle-income countries, according to the World
Severin Schwan, the chief executive of Roche, the world's largest
maker of cancer drugs, said his company and others were already
implementing preferential pricing for the developing world but cost
was only one obstacle.
Countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America also need improved
healthcare systems if patients are to benefit from the latest
developments in medicine.
"It has a lot to do with hospital infrastructure. You can't
administer modern cancer medicines if you don't have sophisticated
lab facilities," he told Reuters. "We're going to institutionalize
cooperation in this area."
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Cancer is the initial focus and drug companies will work with the
Union for International Cancer Control to test out new diagnostics
and treatments in several cities around the world on a pilot basis.
Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt said the $50 million commitment - a
relatively small sum for an industry with global sales of around $1
trillion a year - was just a start.
"The $50 million is more like seeding funding, if you want, and
based on the results we'll gather afterwards we will have a more
ambitious program with more stakeholders between 2020 and 2030," he
(Editing by Mark Potter)
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