GlaxoSmithKline has joined an international effort to help eliminate sleeping sickness, leprosy, elephantiasis, blind trachoma and guinea worm in developing countries.
Those diseases and five others have been designated as neglected tropical diseases by the World Health Organization. The international group says they affect more than 1 billion people and have targeted them for elimination or control.
GSK, which has its U.S. headquarters in Research Triangle Park, said today it will expand its donation of albendazole, to supply all that is needed to eliminate elephantiasis by 2020. Since 2000, it has already donated 2.6 billion tablets in 58 countries.
Elephantiasis causes a thickening of skin and swelling in the lower torso, typically legs and genitals, and is caused by parasitic worms. GSK's tablets are used to de-worm school children.
GSK is also sharing its research with not-for-profit initiatives that are trying to develop drugs to combat other neglected tropical diseases.
GSK is now part of a global partnership that includes the World Health Organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK Department for International Development and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
In announcing GSK's participation, CEO Andrew Witty said in a statement: “We fully support the WHO’s bold vision and we are committed to playing our part in helping to achieve universal coverage of intervention programmes for diseases that can be controlled or eliminated by existing treatments, and to spur R&D into new treatments for diseases where none currently exist. Through this new partnership, we have both the means and the energy to strike a decisive blow against disease in the world’s poorest countries.”