More medicines alone cannot ensure the treatment of neglected tropical diseases.
Chami GF., Bundy DAP.
Neglected tropical diseases afflict more than 1 billion of the world's poorest people. Pharmaceutical donations of preventive chemotherapy for neglected tropical diseases enable the largest en masse treatment campaigns globally with respect to the number of people targeted for treatment. However, the blanket distribution of medicines at no cost to individuals in need of treatment does not guarantee that those individuals are treated. In this Personal View, we aim to examine the next steps that need to be taken towards ensuring equitable treatment access, including health system integration and the role of endemic countries in ensuring medicines are delivered to patients. We argue that the expansion of medicine donation programmes and the development of new medicines are not the primary solutions to sustaining and expanding the growth of neglected tropical disease programmes. Treatment is often not verified by a medical professional, independent surveyor, or national programme officer. Additionally, access to medicines might not be equitable across at-risk populations, and treatment targets for disease control remain largely unmet within many endemic countries. To enable equitable access and efficient use of existing medicines, research is needed now on how best to integrate the treatment of neglected tropical diseases into local health systems. A comprehensive approach should be used, which combines mass drug administration with on-demand access to treatment. Increased commitment by endemic countries, when possible, around the ownership of treatment campaigns is essential to improve access to medicines for neglected tropical diseases.