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WHO and sanofi-aventis expand programme to fight neglected tropical diseases

The World Health Organization (WHO) is today expanding its program to fight some of the most neglected tropical diseases that destroy the lives and health of poor people. This expansion is possible thanks to a renewed collaboration with sanofi-aventis, which has agreed to donate medicines and financial support worth US$25 million over five years to WHO.

This collaboration builds on a previous agreement between WHO and Aventis (now sanofi-aventis) to prevent deaths due to sleeping sickness. Since 2001, this work has saved the lives of an estimated 110 000 people who would otherwise have died from sleeping sickness, a disease spread by the bite of the tsetse fly which is fatal if not treated.

“This project shows the power of collaboration to make a positive difference in the lives of poor people,” said Dr Anders Nordström, WHO Acting Director-General. “By actively seeking out people who show the early symptoms of these diseases, we can ensure that they get the treatment they need before their symptoms worsen."

Under the new agreement, sanofi-aventis will donate $5 million of drugs to treat sleeping sickness and a further US$20 million in financial support for the control of neglected tropical diseases.

As well as sleeping sickness (also known as human African trypanosomiasis), the new project will also address leishmaniasis, Buruli ulcer and Chagas disease. All four diseases are among the most neglected in the world. The people who suffer from them are almost all poor inhabitants of remote, rural areas.

The new project will take a common approach to detecting, preventing and treating these four diseases. The key to all four is to actively seek out people who show early symptoms of the diseases. By identifying them early, people can be given effective treatment before the symptoms worsen.

"The excellent results obtained by working together with WHO to combat sleeping sickness make us very confident that the same approach will produce similar results in other diseases," said M. Jean-François Dehecq, President and CEO of sanofi-aventis. "With this new programme, we hope to contribute to saving many more lives and we are proud to be one of the major WHO collaborators to fight neglected tropical diseases."

For further information, please contact

Ms Fadela Chaib
Communication officer, WHO
Telephone: +41 22 791 32 28
Mobile phone: + 41 79 475 5556
E-mail: chaibf@who.int

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