Best practice

Continued commitment to combat NTDs


Commitment to donate until elimination/eradication for specific diseases where elimination or eradication is possible.




To eliminate or eradicate specific neglected tropical diseases.


Time based donation programmes stifle the realisation of global health targets.

There is a clear difference between initiatives that address diseases where patients need lifelong treatment, and those that aim to eradicate disease altogether. Certain types of diseases such as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) offer pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to commit resources and work with partners to eradicate or even eliminate them permanently.

Why commit to elimination or eradication?
NTDs such as sleeping sickness, river blindness, guinea worm disease and blinding trachoma are estimated to affect more than a billion people in the world’s poorest countries. Though they are rarely fatal, they can cause blindness, fatigue, disfigurement and debilitation. Eradicating or eliminating them can significantly improve people’s lives. The pharmaceutical industry can help achieve this global goal of combatting NTDs through sustained engagement with the global health community as well as continuing to commit resources. So far, NTD product donation programmes have helped millions of people to receive free regular treatment for numerous NTDs.

Treatment for lymphatic filariasis is provided during an annual drug administration in a village in Tanzania. ©GlaxoSmithKline

In January 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) drew up a comprehensive roadmap for the control, elimination and eradication of 17 NTDs by 2020. At the end of that month, pharmaceutical companies joined other partners to sign the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), committing to provide necessary resources to control, eliminate or eradicate 10 diseases by 2020.

Twelve companies in scope of the Index signed the London Declaration and have aligned their commitments with those of the WHO and London Declaration. Sixteen donation programmes are in place to provide free medicines to treat NTDs. In eight, there is no commitment to donate until disease is eliminated. In some cases, elimination is not viable. As of 2018, however, five companies in scope, working with the WHO, have committed to donate medicines through their programmes until the nine remaining NTDs are eradicated or eliminated.

Which companies demonstrate this best practice?
Bayer runs two donation programmes to treat sleeping sickness transmitted by tsetse fly, affecting people in nearly 40 African countries (human African trypanosomiasis, types gambiense and rhodesiense). Bayer also has one for Chagas disease, a form of trypanosomiasis that occurs mostly in Latin America.

Eisai, GSK and Merck & Co., Inc. each operate a structured donation programme for lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis). Merck & Co., Inc. also runs a programme for onchocerciasis (river blindness), while Merck KGaA has one for schistosomiasis (bilharzia), which causes liver damage and kidney failure.

Learn more

View our detailed overview of each company’s performance in the Index, including breakdowns of their product portfolios and R&D pipelines.

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