Politico — Last week, the Senate voted to add Zika to the list of neglected diseases for which pharmaceutical companies and other entities doing research and development for neglected diseases can receive a fast-track review for another product from the Food and Drug Administration. At first glance this seems like an apt move—the program was designed to encourage the development of treatments and vaccines for neglected diseases, and Zika is a disease for which there are currently no treatments or vaccines.
But the program, created in 2007, is in urgent need of reform. It has two key loopholes that fail to guarantee it will really help people who suffer from neglected diseases like Zika, Chagas disease and tuberculosis. As the House takes up the Senate-passed legislation, lawmakers have an important opportunity to make sure the program truly encourages the research and development of new and innovative medicines for neglected diseases.
The program was intended to respond to a real, pressing need: Neglected diseases without appropriate treatment or prevention options. We have seen the human cost of neglect most recently with the Ebola outbreak, where thousands died from a disease for which no approved vaccine or treatment exists. And we’ve seen it for decades with silent killers like Chagas disease, African sleeping sickness, and drug-resistant tuberculosis – where patients struggle with old, toxic and ineffective treatments. It’s estimated that more than 300,000 people in the U.S. alone are infected with the parasite that causes Chagas.