Prelims level : Science & Technology Mains level : GS-III Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management
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Why in News?

  • The thrust in funding research should be followed up with policies that incentivise industry in drug development.


  • India was reported to be the fourth largest funder of research and development (R&D) in neglected diseases as per the G Finder Survey which tracks global investments in R&D for the neglected diseases. Neglected diseases are mostly tropical infectious diseases, and the market size for
  • drugs for such diseases is small due to their limited geographical incidence.
  • To highlight the common problem of lack of innovation for drugs, diagnostics and vaccines for this basket of diseases, WHO started addressing these as neglected diseases from late 1980s. Some examples of neglected diseases are malaria, tuberculosis, leishmaniasis (kala azar), dengue, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis and diarrhoeal diseases.
  • These diseases face an innovation deficit as they are neglected in R&D efforts of the pharmaceutical industry. However, it is not just the neglected diseases in the developing world that face this innovation deficit. Several rare diseases that affect the developed markets are called “orphan diseases.”
  • These are called orphans because the pharmaceutical industry does not find it profitable to develop and market products intended for only a small number of patients suffering from rare diseases.

Innovation model

  • This innovation deficit is caused by the prevailing model of pharmaceutical innovation.
  • By the middle of the 20th century it became an endeavour that was largely driven by pharmaceutical companies. The second half of the 20th century saw consolidation of pharmaceutical entities leading to multinational pharmaceutical companies who drive innovation in the pharmaceutical sector. Orphan diseases comprise both rare diseases and neglected diseases. They are orphans of research focus, market interest and even public health policies. If the market size is not attractive, industry will not invest in such cases. This leads to market failures resulting innovation deficit.


  • The thrust in funding research should be followed up with policies that incentivise industry to take up drug development.
  • A sustained and long-term funding commitment to neglected diseases will address this issue. If the Prime Minister’s slogan of ‘Jai Anusandhan’ has to reach its benefits to the poor and neglected patients, there should be a comprehensive policy to address the innovation deficit in neglected diseases.

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)

  • A diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries – affect more than one billion people and cost developing economies billions of dollars every year. Populations living in poverty, without adequate sanitation and in close contact with infectious vectors and domestic animals and livestock are those worst affected.
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