Improving access to medical products is a priority for Switzerland

Switzerland plays an important role in the fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). In a recent speech, Thomas Gass, Vice-Director General of the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), highlighted how Switzerland is addressing the global challenge of NTDs.

Thomas Gass in Brussel with Thoko Elphick-Pooley (Director Uniting to Combat NTDs)

“The right to health is not a luxury — it is a human right”, said SDC Vice-Director General Thomas Gass during the European Development Days in Brussels. Gass pointed out that “a third of the people affected with NTDs lack access to treatment, because the medicines that exist do not reach them, or because there is simply no effective medicine for the particular disease.” Switzerland, Gass continued, will not accept this unbearable situation. 

Speaking about Swiss contributions to lessen the global burden of NTDs, Gass highlighted collaborations with SANTD members Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) for the development of new diagnostics and medicines. 

SANTD is happy to see a global spotlight on Swiss contributions to the fight against NTDs. Switzerland can be proud of its achievements in Research & Development, but more resources are required to truly end the neglected of tropical diseases. In this regard, SANTD welcomes Gass’ statement that “research has to go beyond the development of medical products and has to be translated into the implementation of multi-sectoral plans against NTDs”.

The full speech of Thomas Gass is available here:


Unaffordable: When poverty defines health

Poverty is bad for health, not least for those surviving on little money, who often have to put their own health last. New studies of health spending in private households in India and Cameroon underline the financial burden faced by poor people in their efforts to treat neglected tropical diseases.

Numerous studies have already shown that the risk of falling ill – and staying ill – is far greater for some than for others. The social gap is widest in the low and middle-income countries, and it is getting wider all the time. Despite a variety of free-of-charge, state-covered health services, the majority of healthcare spending is funded by patients through so-called ‘out-of-pocket payments’. For people already affected by poverty, such private expenditure is a heavy financial burden. Recent studies from India and Cameroon have measured the health expenditure of people suffering from the neglected tropical diseases leprosy and podoconiosis, with an emphasis on the first-hand experiences of the patients themselves. The striking results underline how inequality in access to healthcare is a very real problem.

Leprosy in India – A health problem of the poor

Around 60% of all leprosy afflictions worldwide occur in India. Not surprisingly, leprosy represents one of the largest public health challenges for the Indian health system. Like most neglected tropical diseases, leprosy is a typical poverty-associated disease that, in addition to causing social exclusion, is also a terrible financial burden for sufferers. For the first time, Indian health experts have examined the direct and indirect healthcare costs associated with leprosy from the perspective of private households. In a comparative study, the health systems of two bordering regions in western India were analysed for their accessibility to leprosy treatment. The six-month study documented how leprosy patients from a total of 240 households manage their affliction and investigated the true extent of their contribution to treatment costs.

The region determines the costs

The health systems of both regions offer free-of-charge leprosy treatment but differ in terms of infrastructure, accessibility and the quality of health services, as well as the extent of government subsidies for the respective programmes. The results show marked differences between the regions: Patients in the region with less access to public health services ultimately paid around one dollar less in direct costs (i.e. treatment and medication) than the region with the better-subsidised health system. The reverse is true for indirect costs such as the loss of wages. Patients in the weaker health system paid over $12 in indirect costs, which is around 30% more than those in the stronger healthcare system. As such, the greater part of costs cannot be traced back to treatments and medicines, but to the loss of wages that is a consequence of the disease and its treatment.

The stronger the public health system, the lower the burden

Based on these findings, the researchers conclude that the state of the health system is in direct correlation with the health expenditure of the patient: the better the health system, the lower the out-of-pocket payments. Moreover, the healthcare system has a stronger influence on health awareness. For example, patients in the deprived region were less likely to visit a health centre, but if they did, associated costs were higher because they more often had to resort to more expensive private facilities. Strengthening the health system meant that patients were more likely to visit public facilities, which significantly reduced the cost burden.

Source: Text: Eleni Helbing, FAIRMED

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Happy Birthday SANTD!

The Swiss Alliance against Neglected Tropical Diseases SANTD is going to be one year old. We are celebrating by launching a shared website.

Welcome to our brand new presence in the digital space. But please use caution, as the red color might not have completely dried yet. This website will give us a platform to explain why 10 very different Swiss organizations have joined hands to fight Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).

Over a billion people suffer from Neglected Tropical Diseases. Sadly, this is almost completely unknown to large parts of the Swiss public. The story of neglected diseases is also the story of neglected people. The Swiss Alliance against Neglected Tropical Diseases SANTD is committed make these people visible and to end the neglect of Tropical Diseases.

Switzerland lives up to its responsibility

10 Swiss NGOs, educational and research institutes and pharmaceutical companies are uniting in the fight against neglected tropical diseases. On April 20, the ‘Swiss Alliance against Neglected Tropical Diseases’ was founded in Geneva.

With the motto of ‘Leaving no one behind’, the United Nations promotes its sustainable development goals. Yet these can only be achieved if the billion people worldwide that suffer from neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) do indeed receive the support that they need and do not get left behind. This is the opinion of René Stäheli, managing director of the development organization FAIRMED and co-founder of the ‘Swiss Alliance against Neglected Tropical Diseases’, which was officially inaugurated in Geneva on 20 April 2017.

With this alliance, the 12 development organizations, research and educational institutes and companies have formed an alliance in the fight against neglected tropical diseases, explains Stäheli. “One in seven people globally suffer from one or more neglected tropical disease or their consequences. This burden falls particularly on the world’s poorest, most vulnerable and remote-living people. Together, we want to make these people more visible and send a powerful signal to forge ahead in the fight against neglected tropical diseases.”

Committed to leave no one behind

Millions of people are disabled, stigmatized, excluded from school or work, and deprived of the most productive years of their lives as a result of neglected tropical diseases. NTDs are responsible for more than 170,000 deaths each year. “Our vision is a world where nobody has to suffer from a neglected tropical disease,” explains Peter Steinmann, Public Health Specialist with the Swiss TPH and member of the founding committee.

To achieve this goal, access to existing and new medicines must be ensured for those affected. Programs aimed at controlling neglected tropical diseases have advanced in recent years, the availability of data has improved and it is possible to better coordinate the various tools. “What is now needed to take the decisive step forward is to increase global awareness, develop new and user-friendly drugs, diagnostic tests and interventions, and bridge the huge investment gap. With our activities, we want to send out a strong signal of solidarity with those affected by neglected tropical diseases, and continue our decades-old endeavor to actively contribute towards the achievement of these goals. Together we stand for the Swiss commitment to leave no one behind.”