Non-communicable diseases are on the increase. How are we helping to stem the tide?

Monday, 19 September 2011

Communicable diseases like tuberculosis, malaria and HIV have in recent years been among the greatest health threats in the developing world - but non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer are fast overtaking. In India, where infectious diseases claim around 2 million lives every year, 2.3 million people die from cardiovascular diseases1. In Indonesia, 41% of deaths are caused by communicable diseases and 45% by NCDs2. There are 36 million deaths from NCDs globally every year and, of those, 80 per cent are in lower and middle income countries3.

Whilst developed countries are still coming to terms with NCDs, the problem is yet more complex in the developing world where, in some areas, healthcare systems have typically not been set up to provide treatment and care for chronic conditions. The significant increase in NCDs in the region is also fuelled by other factors including greater life expectancy (partly driven by the decreasing impact of infection), lifestyle choices (for example, smoking and less exercise) and increased pollution4.

AstraZeneca has a key role to play in helping to stem the tide. The challenges that NCDs present are not new to us and we have a strong product portfolio and pipeline of new medicines targeting these areas. But medicines are only part of the solution. We, alongside our other industry peers, believe that only through a combined global effort, involving all the relevant stakeholders, can real progress be made in stemming the tide of NCDs in developing countries.

The research-based pharmaceutical industry has over 200 active partnership programmes around the world to address the public health needs in developing countries by focusing on strengthening healthcare systems, improving health education and building capacity. AstraZeneca is actively involved in such collaborations from projects such as Phakamisa in South Africa, working with partners to broaden access to diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer and providing diagnostic equipment, training and medicines to assist in breast cancer treatment in Ethiopia. 

Ten-point framework for action

What is the IFPMA?

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) was founded in 1968 as a global, non-profit, non-governmental organisation. David Brennan, AstraZeneca Chief Executive Officer currently serves as IFPMA President.


The challenge in tackling NCDs is to ensure that there is a holistic, collaborative response by all stakeholders, including the pharmaceutical industry. Working alongside our IFPMA partners, we are committed to playing our part. This commitment includes our ten-point Framework for Action on NCDs which focuses on those areas where the industry can make the most significant difference; this includes innovation, access and affordability, as well as prevention and health education. The Framework also underscores the essential role of partnerships and dialogue in this work.

On-going research

Now published is the first phase of an on-going research programme in collaboration with the IFPMA, a report from the RAND Corporation analyses the barriers to effective NCD treatment in the developing world - and priorities that need to be addressed to overcome those barriers. The report highlights the multiple factors why patients in developing countries are not receiving the treatment they need. These range from poor distribution networks, to regulatory obstacles, to a lack of primary care, as well as some broader resourcing challenges.

Download the RAND white paper

Working with the IFPMA, further research is planned: looking at how mark-ups along the supply chain as well as counterfeit products can be addressed, reviewing the potential gains of removing regulatory restrictions that adversely effect the availability of medicines in developing countries and how access to primary care can be improved. There are innovative approaches – often using new technology – that will lead to an in-depth review of the most promising of these opportunities.

1,2,3,4 All references from Improving access to medicines for non-communicable diseases in the developing world, RAND Research, Sept 2011

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