Neglected tropical diseases

WHO and Gilead sign agreement for enhanced access to visceral leishmaniasis treatment

The World Health Organization (WHO) today signed an agreement with Gilead Sciences for the donation of 445 000 vials of AmBisome (amphotericin B liposome for injection) for the treatment of one of the most neglected but fatal tropical diseases, visceral leishmaniasis (also known as kala-azar).

From left: Dr Hiroki Nakatani, ADG/WHO; Dr Anne-Marie Worning Executive Director, DGO/WHO; John C. Martin, PhD, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Gilead Sciences, Inc.

The donation, which aims to treat more than 50 000 people infected by visceral leishmaniasis over a period of five years, marks a new era of hope for some of the most deprived communities in eligible endemic countries of South-East Asia and East Africa.

Visceral leishmaniasis is endemic in more than 80 countries worldwide. Left untreated, it is invariably fatal within two years after infection.

AmBisome is the safest and most effective medicine currently available to treat visceral leishmaniasis. In endemic regions of South-East Asia, a single injection of AmBisome has proven highly effective. It has a high cure-rate (96.4%) and reduces the duration of treatment and hospitalization.

The WHO Expert Committee on Leishmaniasis during its meeting in March 2010 recommended the use of this regimen.

For endemic areas in East Africa, this donation provides a safe, life-saving treatment, particularly for pregnant women with HIV-leishmania coinfection.