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Prioritising neglected diseases related to poverty

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 30 June 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:12
  1. Rhona MacDonald
  1. Oxford

    Bernard Pécoul, director of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, tells Rhona MacDonald how his organisation is hoping to help millions of people living in poverty worldwide

    When Bernard Pécoul was working as a doctor in Africa and the Far East, he came face to face with the fact that he sometimes had to treat patients with toxic or ineffective medicines. “As a doctor you are trained to do no harm yet sometimes you have no choice,” he says.

    He realised that for many of the diseases in the developing world there were no cheap effective medicines that had few side effects. Pharmaceutical companies had had no incentive to fund research for drugs that were unlikely to give them a decent return on their investment.

    This prompted Pécoul, who had been working for the international agency Médecins Sans Frontières, to collaborate with six other organisations and set up the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative in 2003. It aimed to find treatments for diseases that had previously been ignored.

    “Our mission is to develop new, improved, and field-relevant drugs for neglected diseases, such as leishmaniasis, human African trypanosomiasis, and Chagas' disease,” explains Pécoul.

    “The worst situation for a …

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