Many of the most common NTDs are combated using medicines that are safe and effective. USAID funding enables medicines to reach people at risk, which contributes to NTD prevention, control, and elimination. However, treatment options for NTDs with the highest death rates, including human African trypanosomiasis, visceral leishmaniasis, and Chagas disease, are extremely limited. Investments are urgently needed to support R&D for new tools, including diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines, for all NTDs. Addressing the link between health and other sectors, along with increased R&D, are necessary to meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) NTD 2020 goals.
Over the past decade, the momentum behind the fight against NTDs has increased dramatically and received widespread bipartisan support from U.S. policymakers. The WHO developed its first Strategic Plan in 2003, and the U.S. government allocated $15 million in FY2006 for the creation of an integrated NTD control program at USAID. In January 2012, inspired by the WHO 2020 Roadmap for NTDs, a range of public and private partners – including pharmaceutical companies, donor governments, endemic countries, research organizations, the World Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – announced the London Declaration on NTDs, a coordinated commitment to control and eliminate 10 NTDs by 2020. The USAID NTD Program began investing in R&D in 2014 to ensure that promising new medicines for filarial diseases can be developed and made available. Progress is real and measurable: In USAID-supported countries, 140 million people are no longer at risk for lymphatic filariasis, 65 million people are no longer at risk for trachoma, and 2.4 million people are no longer at risk for onchocerciasis. Thousands of people at risk of blindness due to trachomatous trichiasis have received sight-preserving, quality surgery.
In addition to USAID, other U.S. agencies have NTD programs. NIH continues to be the largest funder globally of neglected disease early-stage R&D through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Fogarty International Center. CDC works on NTDs through control programs, diagnostic research, capacity building in endemic countries, progress evaluation, and monitoring and identifying new tools. DoD also plays a significant role in NTD R&D for the U.S. military.
It is essential to continue the U.S. commitment to NTD control and R&D programs across agencies. Ongoing investments are needed to ensure that new discoveries make it through the pipeline and become available to people who need them most; if sustained, the U.S. can save lives and reduce suffering for hundreds of millions of people.