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Drugmakers in Davos shift focus to chronic diseases of poor

By Reuters in Davos | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-19 07:34

Two decades after they were spurred into action to tackle AIDS in Africa, global drugmakers said on Wednesday that they would invest $50 million over three years to fight cancer and other non-communicable diseases in poor countries.

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, Switzerland, and aims to improve both treatment and prevention.

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 rollout of anti-malarial bednets.

Today, however, the healthcare burden is shifting as deaths from these illnesses 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 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 Health Organization.

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 said. "We're going to institutionalize cooperation in this area."

Cancer is the initial focus and drug companies will work with the Union for International Cancer Control to test new diagnostics and treatments in several cities around the world on a pilot basis.

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