LONDON, Jan. 30 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Today Johnson & Johnson joined the World Health Organization (WHO), 12 other pharmaceutical companies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. and U.K. governments, the World Bank, and officials from endemic countries in a new, coordinated action to eliminate or control by the end of the decade 10 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that affect more than a billion people in the world.
Johnson & Johnson and other partners announced their commitments at an event today at the Royal College of Physicians in London, and signed onto the "London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases," to pledge new levels of collaboration and tracking and reporting of progress.
Johnson & Johnson will work with its partners on pre-clinical research and clinical development of flubendazole, a potential new treatment against parasites that cause lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) and onchocerciasis (river blindness), two debilitating diseases for which current treatments do not eradicate the parasites. Elephantiasis and river blindness are among the most difficult to treat tropical diseases and afflict hundreds of millions around the world in Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South America and other tropical countries. The infections are transmitted by insect bites and caused by adult worms that lodge in the body and lay millions of larvae in the lymphatic system, blood and tissues. Current treatments effectively kill only the larvae, not adult worms, and have serious side effects.
Flubendazole, originally discovered and developed by renowned researcher Dr. Paul Janssen, founder of Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Pharmaceutica, is a proven, effective treatment against intestinal parasites. Unlike drugs that are currently used to treat parasitic infections affecting the skin or the eyes, flubendazole has an important advantage: it kills adult parasites rather than just their larvae. However, in its current formulation, which is not absorbable, it is effective only against parasites in the stomach and intestines, but does not reach parasites lodged in blood and tissues.
Working in collaboration with other pharmaceutical partners, Johnson & Johnson will contribute scientific, supply assistance and technical expertise to Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) to reformulate flubendazole to enhance its bioavailability in blood and tissues and conduct pre-clinical testing. The pre-clinical work was supported by a Gates Foundation grant to DNDi. Assuming the pre-clinical development is successful, Johnson & Johnson has agreed to co-fund clinical development and to collaborate with partners on clinical trials to develop the reformulated flubendazole. Johnson & Johnson will also obtain regulatory approval for this compound.
"Innovation is the heart of our company, and it's critical to help people live longer, healthier lives," said William C. Weldon, Chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson. "It's our goal to bring a new, more effective and easier to administer version of our medicine flubendazole to millions of people suffering from two neglected tropical diseases, working with DNDi, the Gates Foundation, and other pharmaceutical companies."
In addition, through Children Without Worms (CWW), Johnson & Johnson will extend its donation of mebendazole, a deworming medication, to treat children with intestinal worms. Since starting CWW, a partnership between Johnson & Johnson and The Task Force for Global Health that supports global efforts to reduce the burden of parasitic infections in children, Johnson & Johnson has donated more than 150 million doses of mebendazole. In 2010, as part of the Millennium Development Goals commitment, the company quadrupled the donation of mebendazole, committing to provide 200 million doses a year for intestinal worms in 30-40 countries through 2015. Today, it is extending this commitment through 2020. Together with the 400 million doses of albendazole donated by GlaxoSmithKline, this will have huge impact on treating the more than 600 million children targeted by the World Health Organization (WHO).
"There is tremendous opportunity to address the gaps that remain in delivering effective prevention and treatment for NTDs, and to help the more than one billion of the world's poorest people affected by them. Meeting the challenge will require new innovation and greater collaboration," said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson. "By working together, by bringing together the resources of many to create and deliver new medicines, we can chart a new course toward health and sustainability among the world's poorest communities."
As part of the coordinated effort announced today, Johnson & Johnson also has committed to combating NTDs through other drug donation and collaborative research and development initiatives. The company will:
- Continue to explore the development of a new chewable formulation of mebendazole to provide treatment for younger children.
- Share scientific and technical expertise to advance R&D programs, and collaborate on product development. The company is entering into innovative licensing agreements with DNDi to share compounds and knowledge to generate new drugs for river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, sleeping sickness, Chagas and visceral leishmaniasis.
- Coordinate operational activities toward the achievement of the 2020 goals through partnership in a collective progress through a NTD scorecard that will regularly and formally track progress, including whether participating organizations are meeting their supply, research, funding and implementation commitments.
These commitments build on Johnson & Johnson's decades of scientific and philanthropic collaboration that has brought new research and financial resources to bear against diseases of the developing world, including a comprehensive effort launched in 2010 to improve the health of as many as 120 million women and children each year in developing countries by 2015. Since then, Johnson & Johnson has laid a strong foundation for measurable impact in several areas to reduce mortality in women and children, including: expanding health information for mothers over mobile phones, helping to increase the number of safe births, doubling donations of treatments for intestinal worms in children, helping to ensure that no child is born with HIV, and furthering research and development of new medicines for HIV and tuberculosis (TB).
Beyond the commitment to women's and children's health, Johnson & Johnson is building alliances in prevention, aligning with the United Nations Secretary General's call-to-action to address the major causes of chronic, non-communicable diseases globally.
In recent years the company has:
- Invested significantly in research and development against diseases of the developing world including:
- Development of what could be the first new TB drug in 40 years
- New antiretrovirals and a potential preventive compound for HIV
- A partnership with Medivir on treatment and prophylaxis for Dengue fever
- Launched three new medicines against HIV in the past five years and engaged in the development of a treatment requiring only one pill, once a day, in collaboration with Gilead.
- Partnered with the International Partnership on Microbicides to develop a vaginal microbicide against HIV.
- Provided sustainable access to medicines in areas of high burden through voluntary licensing and multiple generic agreements.
- Extended special pricing of Crucell's QUINVAXEM®, the first single-dose, fully liquid vaccine for five of the world's most prevalent childhood diseases. The cornerstone of UNICEF's childhood vaccine program, QUINVAXEM® has helped protect more than 60 million children against Hepatitis-B, Haemophilus influenzae type B, Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis over past five years.
- Donated 690,000 doses of measles and rubella vaccine and 879,000 doses of hepatitis B vaccine.
- Worked toward development of vaccines to address infrastructure barriers such as vaccine storability and administration.
In the last decade, Johnson & Johnson and its operating companies have provided more than $4.3 billion in grants, product donations and patient assistance that have touched the lives of men, women and children throughout the world.
About Johnson & Johnson
Caring for the world, one person at a time... inspires and unites the people of Johnson & Johnson. We embrace research and science - bringing innovative ideas, products and services to advance the health and well-being of people. Our approximately 116,000 employees at more than 250 Johnson & Johnson companies work with partners in healthcare to touch the lives of over a billion people every day, throughout the world.
For more information, visit www.jnj.com.
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