ICBioethics Blog 

Neglected Disease

Written by: Barbara Postol

If you had to quickly think of the role that medication has in healthcare today, what would it be? Many people think something along the lines of “to help people” or to “cure illness”.  There have been many lifesaving discoveries that have come in the form of pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical research is a costly endeavor and a very long process; first it is a long shot for a compound to even be safe and beneficial, and if the drug is, it takes years and years of research before it becomes available.

That research process is expensive.  The pharmaceutical industry often cites this when it comes to certain illnesses; research and development. There has to be a return on investment (profit) to keep going and develop new drugs and so on. Neglected diseases, sometimes called orphan diseases, are illnesses that do not get much attention from drug makers. Perhaps you wonder why, or think they may be illnesses that don’t impact many people. Wrong.

Neglected diseases are not isolated; they affect more than one billion people, one-sixth of the world population. In the US, we have several options to treat wrinkles, yet in developing countries people are routinely dying of malaria. Nobody dies of wrinkles. Why isn’t someone doing something?

Again, the industry often cites that it must generate revenue in order to finance the research and development of new medications. It would appear neglected disease is not a good investment of resources. When true diseases affecting so many continues, the industry seems to lean more toward a financial investment and further away from a mission to treat illness.

One more thing…. there is a great emphasis on marketing new prescription drug medications that many argue cost more than the research and development of the actual drugs. Those TV commercials aren’t cheap either. So, where does the money really go, developing drugs or advertising them?

Mitch GennusoComment