Tackling diseases in developing countries

We work to tackle some of the root causes of disease and ill-health and contribute to healthier communities around the world.

We are one of the few companies researching treatments and vaccines for all three of the World Health Organization’s priority infectious diseases: malaria, tuberculosis and HIV.

In developing countries, people affected by certain diseases face stigma and discrimination, disability and a vicious cycle of ill health and poverty. Diseases that can be prevented, managed, or cured cause significant suffering and mortality due to a lack of basic knowledge and inadequate health services.

We support activities to tackle these diseases through donations of medicines, financial and practical support. Our global health programmes focus on malaria, lymphatic filariasis and intestinal worms in partnership with governments, NGOs and other organisations to maximise benefits for communities.

We also collaborate closely with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organisation (WHO), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and financing agencies such as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) to support the introduction of vaccines once they are available. GSK is the leading vaccine supplier to organisations such as UNICEF and the PAHO and we provide vaccines to help protect children and babies from infectious diseases including pneumococcal disease, rotavirus gastroenteritis, meningitis, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, polio, mumps and rubella.

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The fight against malaria

Malaria is responsible for more than 550,000 deaths a year and around 3.2 billion people are at risk. Spread by mosquitos, around 90% of estimated deaths from malaria occur in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and 77% of these are in children under the age of 5. The human cost is enormous, as is the economic cost – malaria consumes around 40% of all public health expenditure in endemic countries.

We are playing a significant role to improve the health of communities affected by malaria in three ways:

  • researching new malaria medicines, treatments and vaccines
  • pricing our anti-malarials in the least developed countries and sub-Saharan Africa affordably
  • investing in community activities funded by the GSK Africa Malaria Partnership

For the last 30 years, together with our partners, we have been working to develop a vaccine to protect young children from this deadly parasite. In 2015, the European Medicines Agency adopted a positive scientific opinion for our malaria candidate vaccine Mosquirix™, or RTS,S, in children aged six weeks to 17 months. In 2016, the World Health Organization confirmed that funding has been committed to enable the pilot implementation of RTS,S in three settings in sub-Saharan Africa, due to begin in early 2018.

GSK developed RTS,S in partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The vaccine candidate targets a malarial parasite, P. falciparum, which is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa. Trials have shown that its use, along with bed nets and insecticides, can help protect the region’s most vulnerable children.

Partnership

No one organisation has the ability to defeat malaria on its own. That’s why we are working in partnership with other organisations to develop new tools whilst increasing the use of existing methods like bed nets and indoor spraying of insecticides.

Since 2001, we have supported the Africa Malaria Partnership to promote the use of existing interventions, such as bed nets, indoor residual spraying, and anti-malarial treatments. In 2016, we completed our work with the Partnership which reached over 1.5 million people through increased knowledge of malaria prevention, control and early treatment among communities in sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2016, we continued our partnerships with Amref Health Africa and Save the Children to train health professionals and community health workers in Tanzania and Kenya respectively, with FHI 360 and The Carter Center to combine interventions, control malaria and NTDs in Ghana and Nigeria, and with the Faiths Act Sierra Leone to train faith leaders to become malaria ambassadors.

In December 2015, we launched a new partnership with Comic Relief, a UK charity, to fight malaria and strengthen health systems. This £22 million partnership, created by a £17 million donation from GSK and £5 million from Comic Relief, will make grants to frontline organisations in five malaria endemic countries. This complements interventions by other global health funders and grassroots organisations. In 2016, the partnership announced its first grants to organisations fighting malaria and improving health in Tanzania and Mozambique.

Through these collaborations, we aim to support the WHO target to reduce malaria cases and deaths by at least 90% by 2030 and support the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

For many years we have focused research and development on the elimination of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). NTDs affect more than 1 billion people in some of the world’s poorest communities. They cause disability, disfiguration and death, they stretch healthcare budgets and they severely constrain development opportunities.

Uniting to combat NTDs partnership

In January 2012, we joined other global pharmaceutical companies and leading organisations, including the World Health Organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UK Department for International Development, US Agency for International Development and the World Bank, in a new united effort to support countries to defeat Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). Together, this coalition supports the goals set out by WHO to control or eliminate 10 of the 17 NTDs by 2020.

In 2016, this partnership of major pharmaceutical companies, UN organisations, academics, NGOs and national governments released its fourth annual report and scorecard demonstrates that whilst progress is being made towards the WHO targets, and countries are making significant strides, challenges remain.

Our contribution focuses on our large-scale donation of albendazole, efficient forecasting, manufacturing and shipping of donated products.

Tijuana Duric bathing the leg of Algueta, a lymphatic filariasis patient
Lymphatic filariasis

Lymphatic filariasis

LF is transmitted by mosquitoes. It is more commonly known as elephantiasis, a condition with marked hardening and thickening of the skin that frequently accompanies massive swelling in the arms, legs, breasts and genitals.

The disease is one of the principal causes of permanent disability worldwide, affecting more than 120 million people in tropical and sub-tropical areas of Africa, Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East and the Americas. 

Schoolchild working

Intestinal worms

Soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections (intestinal worms) can stunt growth and cause anaemia and malnutrition. They can impact a child’s ability to learn and affect their performance at school.

Three major intestinal worms - roundworm, whipworm and hookworm - are among the most widespread parasites worldwide. Together these parasites inflict a heavy health burden in tropical and subtropical countries.

Fortunately there are tools that offer hope. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), de-worming can result in immediate improvements in child health, leading to increased growth rates, better school attendance and performance, improved iron status, and a decline in anaemia. WHO recommends treatment of all children in endemic areas with anthelminthic drugs - such as our anti-parasite medicine albendazole - to reduce and control intestinal worm infection and illness.

How we are tackling LF and intestinal worms

We are an active partner in one of the world’s biggest and boldest public health initiatives, led by the WHO, to rid the world of LF.

GSK has donated seven billion albendazole tablets to the WHO in the global efforts to help eliminate LF and help control intestinal worms. We have pledged to donate albendazole for as long as needed to help eliminate this disease.

Our PHASE programme

Every year three million people die of diarrhoeal disease, most of them children. The spread of this disease can be easily prevented by improving water quality and encouraging people to wash their hands. Our Personal Hygiene and Sanitation Education (PHASE) programme, run in partnership with NGOs, tackles both issues.

Teaching children and families

As well as improving local water pipes, pumps and other infrastructure, PHASE teaches children how to wash their hands and why it is important, using easy to understand books and story cards which are adapted to reflect everyday lives in each country. The programme encourages children to share what they have learnt with their families and communities. Since PHASE began the programme has reached at least 1.4 million children with information about how to change their behaviour to keep healthy.

Integrating oral healthcare

Poor oral hygiene can be a significant problem in developing countries, affecting an individual’s overall health and quality of life. In partnership with the Earth Institute’s Millennium Villages Project we are integrating oral healthcare into PHASE. We aim to introduce and test effective measures through behaviour change and promotion of good oral health practice, nutrition and eating habits.

Our goal is to set up a model for integrating PHASE with school de-worming as part of the expanded albendazole donation programme.

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