The challenges for pharmaceutical manufacturers are considerable. The industry's high profits and research successes boost pressure to devote more corporate resources to third-world medical needs. But, such initiatives often require new skills and knowledge and need different procedures for conducting research. Despite much public attention, the level of support from national governments remains fairly meager and uncertain.
In the past, pharmaceutical companies often gave away available drugs for third-world diseases, but this has not encouraged investment in research on needed treatments that have little market value in industrial states. A more recent strategy has been to establish artificial commercial markets. US and European governments have offered tax breaks and patent extensions to push R&D. They also have provided advance purchase commitments (APCs) to "pull" new products to market. But, analysts now consider these tactics only minimally effective because they often yield treatments with low value for patients in poor countries. Some products still are too expensive for widespread purchase and have dosing and distribution requirements that undermine access and compliance.New landscape
Although pharmaceutical companies developed only a handful of new drugs to treat neglected diseases in the previous 25 years, Moran finds that from 2000 to 2004, partnerships involving large and small companies and nonprofit organizations launched 63 research projects that should translate into nine or 10 new drugs by 2010. This investment has occurred largely outside normal government health funding programs and has been supported substantially by Gates, the Rockefeller Foundation, and other private donors.
In the 1990s, multinational pharmaceutical companies closed down neglected disease research, according to Moran. Now, they are joining PPPs such as Medicines for Malaria Venture, the TB Alliance, Drugs for Neglected Diseases, and the Institute for OneWorld Health (iOWH) and investing their own resources in this area to address objectives such as:
In addition, a growing number of niche biotechnology companies regard small infectious disease markets similarly to orphan drug development. R&D partnerships provide the means for many small companies to parlay expertise in genomics, bioinformatics, and other innovative technologies into new development programs and also to license out intellectual property to larger partners.