The underfunding of research for tuberculosis and other neglected diseases by the European Commission.
Neglected diseases, neglected patients
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are faced every day with the lack of adequate or effective tools needed to treat, detect or prevent disease. This situation is particularly dramatic for those diseases that predominantly occur in poor countries. All too often, effective medicines, vaccines or easy-to-use tests simply do not exist.
A major reason for this is the insufficient research devoted to developing new health tools for neglected diseases.
Globally, tuberculosis (TB), malaria and neglected tropical diseases account together for 12% of the burden of disease. Every year, 1.7 million people die as a result of TB alone.i Between 1.1 and 2.7 million people, mostly children under five years of age, die as a consequence of malaria.ii Over a billion people are estimated to suffer from neglected tropical diseases, and even this number is considered by some experts as an underestimation.
Yet, despite such a deadly toll, these neglected diseases are much less researched than many other less lethal diseases.
Let deeds match words
Although the catastrophe due to these diseases has been repeatedly recognised, and ambitious but realistic targets have been set - not least through the UN Millennium Development Goals, and more recently through the work of the World Health Organization hosted Intergovernmental Working Group on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (WHO IGWG) - the financial commitments lag far behind the political rhetoric, raising questions about the seriousness of the international community's response to this crisis in health.
This report examines the contributions of the European Commission (EC) to the funding of research for TB, malaria and other neglected diseases. The EC must be an important player in funding medical research, particularly as the European Union accounts for 31% of the world's GDP.
Individual European member states equally have a responsibility to do far more than they are at present. This is addressed in other reports. Following MSF's analysis of the Federal Republic of Germany's limited contribution to neglected disease research in April 2008, there are early indications that the German Bundestag will wake up to the challenges and increase its funding.
This report is divided into six parts.
In Part 1. Why this report? We provide the context and objectives of the report, including the underlying assumptions and methods.
Part 2: How the money is spent: the funding mechanisms of the EC lays out the technical details of the funding structures of the EC in Framework Programme 7, to help give an understanding of budgetary allocations.
In Part 3. How much is spent: the flow of resources we provide a detailed breakdown of funding to the diseases in this report, in the year 2007.
In Part 4. 'Fair share': how much should the EC be paying? we use tuberculosis to illustrate the current shortfalls in funding for the diseases of the report, and to determine the amount that the EC should be paying.
Part 5. Conclusions presents our main findings.
In Part 6. Recommendations, we hone in on the particular policies that, in our view, can be directly targeted for change, and give our recommendations for policy action.