Indian public funding for research and development into neglected diseases has shown the strongest global growth since 2009. Funding increased significantly in 2017, growing by Rs 135 crore or around 38 percent, contributing to a significant boon into research of diseases such as tuberculosis.
Globally, funding for neglected disease research reached its highest level ever in 2017, exceeding $3.5 billion. The funding increases were largely driven by increased investment from the UK, Germany, the European Commission and India. A host of middle-income countries also raised spending levels, contributing to overall growth in funding.
Malaria and tuberculosis saw the largest overall funding boosts from India, with Rs 43 crore and Rs 37 crore additional investment respectively.
For India the report also found that “for the first time Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has been placed in the top four largest funders for research and development in tuberculosis with a $6 million or 47 percent increase in investment.” Leprosy also received funding increases, with an additional $2 million allocated, entirely driven by the ICMR, according to the eleventh annual G-FINDER report released in Geneva.
These neglected diseases pose a significant risk to India. Malaria has long blighted the country, with large, built up cities posing a particular risk to contracting the disease. Plenty of opportunity for stagnant water build up coupled with densely packed populations with crowded transport routes present ample opportunity for breeding populations of mosquitoes to spread the disease.
Tuberculosis is among one of the foremost risks to the country. India accounts for 23 percent of TB cases worldwide, with 2.79 million cases in 2016 and 423,000 deaths. India also accounts for the most child deaths from TB, with 55,000 deaths associated with the disease in 2015.
This alone is not the only issue. Drug resistant strains of TB are becoming abundant in India, as well as across the globe. This makes the disease far more resistant to treatment, eventually making many drugs all but obsolete. Second line therapies which are still effective against these strains are often far more expensive and in short supply, meaning access to them in many areas of India is all but impossible.
Increasing funding into diseases such as TB is essential in ensuring that the drug resistance epidemic does not escalate to such a point where the disease is all but unable to be controlled.