Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease, are usually thought to be “rich world” problems. However, the fact is that over 80 percent of NCDs occur in low or middle income countries.
NCDs are the leading cause of death in the world, accounting for 63 percent of annual deaths. In addition, millions of people must live with the symptoms and effects of these diseases for many years. The long-term disability and premature deaths associated with NCDs have a negative on economic development – it is estimated that one additional year of life expectancy raises a country’s GDP by four percent.
Although the pharmaceutical industry has made progress in treating NCDs in developed countries, much must be done in order to address these ailments in the developing world, where countries need support in building their healthcare infrastructure.
Johns Hopkins University recently released a roadmap for pharmaceutical companies and non-communicable diseases in the developing world. Its recommendations include regional and global harmonization among health care agencies and regulatory bodies. This would increase efficiency in the approval and distribution of quality drugs in different countries by eliminating diverging standards and protocols. In addition, pharmaceutical supply chains would be strengthened and primary care in developing countries would be expanded as efforts are made to improve both treatment and prevention.
In addition, it is important for pharmaceutical companies to work with the governments of emerging countries in order to help treat the high incidence of NCDs there. Lilly, for example, has set up partnerships in Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa. These are focused on increasing access to treatment among underserved populations.
A final lesson is that the pharmaceutical industry should look to models that have been employed to fight HIV/AIDS. These include innovative partnerships between industry and governments.
With careful planning and investment, pharmaceutical companies can tap into new markets by bringing their NCD therapies to developing countries. This would be beneficial both to the industry and to the underserved populations that are currently not receiving adequate treatment.
– Caroline Poterio Martinez