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Drug Companies Ignore Neglected Diseases, WHO Says

Margaret Chan (file photo) (epa) February 1, 2007 -- The head of the World Health Organization says more must be done to cure "neglected" diseases that afflict 1 billion people in developing countries.

Margaret Chan told a health conference in Bangkok that these diseases were ignored by drug companies that have little incentive to develop drugs for poor markets.

She said "ancient and entrenched" diseases, including many caused by parasites in places like Africa and India, caused far greater human suffering than emerging threats such as SARS and bird flu.

Chan named six diseases that maim, blind, disfigure, and kill millions of the world's poor but are rarely seen in wealthier countries with higher living standards and better health care.

Health advocacy groups say the answer lies in publicly-funded research, and want governments to spend more money on such efforts.