Disease means poverty. More than ever before
it is an obstacle to economic development. Communicable diseases
constitute 60% of the disease burden of developing countries, the
major killers being AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria. Although
largely preventable and/or treatable, they kill about 5 million
people each year.
Through its Fifth Framework Programme, the European Commission has
invested increasingly in research targeting these diseases. For
the period 1999-2002, around 130
million have been earmarked for research on AIDS, TB and malaria.
Following a decision at the G8 summit in Okinawa (July 2000) to
accelerate action against these diseases, the EU is now active in
three major areas: optimising existing activities in developing
countries; making key pharmaceuticals more affordable; and investing
in research into new medicines and vaccines.
Strengthening support for R&D requires innovative partnerships
(notably with industry) and reinforced co-ordination. The European
scientific community is already working with the vaccine industry
in a unique international collaboration. But better co-ordination
is necessary to expand R&D even further, to accept a greater
degree of investment risk, and to move from serial to parallel testing
of candidate drugs/vaccines. In this respect, the recent Commission
initiative to create a European Research Area provides the ideal
opportunity to improve research programmes and activities undertaken
by the Member States.
This long-term strategy should enable the EU to contribute to facing
the major challenge of poverty-related disease by confronting growing
epidemics and reducing the ravages of AIDS, TB and malaria in the