Neglected Tropical Diseases
World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day is being celebrated for the first time on 30 January 2020.
• Neglected diseases are conditions that inflict severe health burdens on the world’s poorest people, mostly prevalent in tropical climates, particularly in areas with unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation, substandard housing and little or no access to health care.
• Diseases are said to be neglected if they are often overlooked by drug developers or by others instrumental in drug access, such as government officials, public health programs. Typically, private pharmaceutical companies cannot recover the cost of developing and producing treatments for these diseases.
• Another reason neglected diseases are not considered high priorities for prevention or treatment is because they usually do not affect people who live in the United States and other developed nations.
• Neglected diseases also lack visibility because they usually do not cause dramatic outbreaks that kill large numbers of people.
• Some examples are – Malaria has infected around 300 million people living in the tropical region, Lymphatic filariasis is a parasitic worm disease, spread by mosquitoes, has affected around 120 million people in the tropical region etc.
• According to WHO, NTDs has affected more than one billion people and cost developing economies billions of dollars every year.
By providing people with safe sources of drinking water, good sanitation, adequate housing and access to health care.
For diseases that are spread by insects, simple measures such as pesticides or hanging nets around beds may help to prevent or reduce the risk of getting infected.
For diseases caused by bacteria, an effective precaution may be to boil water used for drinking, cooking and hand washing.
Other measures involve giving people medications that will prevent infection or greatly minimize the impact of infection
Many people with neglected diseases do not receive proper treatment. Due to lack of health care services, they do not get diagnosed with a disease until it is in an advanced stage that is difficult to treat.
Even at a cost of less than 50 cents a day, such drugs remain too expensive for many poor people.
Pharmaceutical companies don’t show any interest in research and production of medication for NTDs as people in these regions have limited capacity to pay for the drugs.
Most of the countries affected by NTDs are low/middle-income countries.
A lack of clear policy to deal with rare diseases in India.
The main tropical diseases in India include Dengue, Trachoma, Leprosy, Lymphatic Filariasis, Soil-transmitted Helminthiases, Rabies and Kala-azar. The following national programmes in relation to tropical diseases are being implemented:
National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP): for control of Dengue and elimination of Kala-azar and Lymphatic Filariasis, Malaria, Japanese Enephalitis, Chikangunia.
National Leprosy Eradication Programme: India has achieved the elimination of leprosy at the national level in December 2005. Focus is now to achieve the elimination of leprosy at the district level.
National Programme for Control of Blindness: services are provided for the control of Trachoma.
School Health Programme: services are provided for the prevention of Soil-transmitted Helminthiases (National Deworming Initiative).
National Policy for Treatment of Rare Diseases was brought by the government in 2017.
Much needs to be done to address the challenges of NTDs. Public health experts need to develop better ways of delivering health messages and services to low-income people.
Research and Development need to be promoted to develop low-cost drugs for NTDs.
State governments need to wholeheartedly support the central government's guidance on rare disease policy, budget, etc. Karnataka is emerging as a model state in this regard with the establishment of a rare disease care centre of excellence at the Indira Gandhi Institute for Child Health (IGICH).
Government of India should make newborn screening mandatory for all treatable diseases across all states.
A genetic and health non-discrimination policy should be strictly enforced in our society at all levels including educational institutions, employment and public facilities to accommodate disabilities of patients with rare diseases.
Health insurance schemes in India should be mandated to cover genetic diseases and pre-existing conditions that may be inherited.