On June 17, Research!America hosted a Capitol Hill briefing on neglected tropical diseases in partnership with Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), The American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
Research!America also led a series of Hill meetings last week with influential congressional offices to discuss some of the successes of USAID’s NTD program and to highlight the need for continued investments. USAID’s NTD program – which was authorized by Congress in 2006 – has helped to deliver more than 580 million treatments to approximately 260 million people through mass drug administration campaigns. We were joined by Georgetown University, Baylor College of Medicine, the Global Network for NTDs, IMA World Health and the Latin America Society for Chagas (LASOCHA). The group – which represented a broad range of partners from organizations that implement USAID NTD programs to patient advocates to leading NTD expert, Dr. Peter Hotez – discussed the importance of the USAID NTD program to their work and updated staffers on emerging issues in NTD prevention and treatment.
Maggie Baker from Georgetown University and Janiere Pereira from IMA World Health described their experiences implementing NTD programs on the ground and provided specific examples of the impact of the USAID NTD program. Michelle Brooks from the Global Network for NTDs discussed the need for continued congressional support for the USAID NTD program and Research!America explained the continued need to fund NTD research so that we can develop the next generation of tools to prevent, diagnose and treat these debilitating diseases. Dr. Peter Hotez described some of his efforts at the Sabin Vaccine Institute to develop much needed tools to combat NTDs in addition to highlighting the toll that these diseases take on neglected populations and the possibility of elimination if the necessary resources are provided. Finally, Dr. Rachel Marcus from LASOCHA was able to bring it home for many of the staffers by explaining the emergence of Chagas disease in their home states and various complications that Chagas disease creates for patients and low-income communities.
The Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee also held a hearing on addressing gaps in the treatment of NTDs. The goal of the hearing was for the committee to better understand the issues around NTDs and seek recommendations from experts on how to improve U.S. government investments in NTD programs and research. Another topic of discussion was how Congress can create incentives for drug companies to research new technologies to address NTDs which disproportionately affect poor populations that lack large purchasing power.
All of these events demonstrated the global health community’s commitment to NTDs and helped remind Congress of the importance of these programs in light of the tough fiscal environment. While it has been an exciting two weeks for NTD advocates, there is still a lot of work to do. It is critical that we continue to fund these life-saving programs and make the investments in R&D necessary to create the next generation of tools in the battle against NTDs.