Tackling the Biggest Challenges in Global Health
This World Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Day, Johnson & Johnson is pleased to announce that this is the number of doses of mebendazole, our medicine to treat intestinal worms, that we have donated for people in need in more than 50 resource-limited countries around the world. It’s the latest achievement in a donation program we launched in 2006 that is helping children, who are particularly vulnerable to intestinal worms, grow, learn, and thrive.
But it’s more than just a milestone.
Our efforts to address intestinal worms are an integral part in the global campaign to tackle NTDs, a group of about 20 communicable, often debilitating diseases that affect more than 1.7 billion people in nearly 150 countries around the world, with disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable populations. While NTDs are far from defeated, this campaign represents one of the most encouraging success stories in global health and demonstrates the impact we can have by setting ambitious goals, collaborating across sectors and taking coordinated action from the lab to the last mile of health delivery.
The Journey to Two Billion Doses
We first launched our donation program in 2006, pledging to provide 50 million doses of mebendazole, developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, each year to vulnerable communities.
We quadrupled this commitment in 2012 to 200 million doses annually when we signed onto the historic London Declaration on NTDs, a first-of-its-kind public-private effort involving the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and 12 other pharmaceutical companies aimed at supporting the World Health Organization’s goals to tackle NTDs. We’ve since extended our 200 million-dose-per-year commitment through 2025.
The London Declaration has proven to be a pivotal moment in the fight against NTDs, helping to galvanize cross-sector action, increase access to treatment and pave the way for the elimination of at least one NTD in dozens of countries. It shows what is possible when the global health community comes together, commits to a set of shared goals, and remains steadfast in those commitments – even in the face of disruptions like those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Impact at the Last Mile
Donating medicines is just one piece of the puzzle. They also need to cross the last mile of delivery to reach people in need.
To ensure medicines are directed to where they are needed most, we’re working to utilize the most modern technology to help improve surveillance of certain NTDs. Together with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s Global Health Institute, we’re advancing an innovative program that is deploying artificial intelligence for both intestinal worms and schistosomiasis (another NTD), with the aim to more efficiently direct medicines and resources to high-burden locations.
Accelerating in the Lab
The success of the London Declaration shows the power of setting ambitious goals at the last mile. We’re also setting those kinds of goals in the lab.
In 2007, we initiated development of a chewable formulation of our intestinal worm medicine in response to the WHO’s request for more child-friendly medicines. The result is a tablet that can be administered in two ways: easily chewed when potable water is not readily available or mixed with a small amount of water for easy administration to children as young as one year of age. This formulation launched in late 2019, and our donation program fully transitioned to this formulation in 2021.
Johnson & Johnson is also proud to be leading the charge against the dengue virus, another NTD which infects as many as 400 million people each year and could threaten billions more as the global climate warms, allowing the mosquito that carries the dengue virus to spread ever further. There are no specific antiviral treatments according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and only a single vaccine has been licensed. Recent outbreaks in South Asia have underscored the need for science to address this emerging threat.
We’re making progress. In 2021, we announced that an early-stage compound with a novel mechanism of action could potentially prevent and treat all serotypes of dengue virus. Though preliminary, these data offer hope against an NTD that has proven extremely challenging to address, and we’re advancing the program into clinical development.
Our Commitment to NTDs
Achieving the milestone of two billion doses and driving progress against NTDs is a testament to the power of enduring commitment.
It’s also a testament to the dedication, passion and expertise of people at every level of the global health community, including countless scientists, advocates, colleagues, and most importantly, those on the front lines.
What we’ve achieved together is remarkable. There is still much to be done, but together, we can end the neglect, and ensure a healthier future for all.
January 27, 2022