Lack of money not only restricts access to existing drugs and vaccines and means of dispensing them, it also offers little incentive for drug companies to develop new medicines for people in poor countries. Globally, the World Health Organization estimates that more than $56 billion a year is spent on health research - but less than 10% of that sum is directed toward diseases that afflict 90% of the world's population. Between 1975 and 1997, an impressive 1,223 new compounds were launched on the market, but only 11 of them were designed for tropical diseases. The problem is not merely one of human welfare, important though that is. Many economists believe it is also an issue of economic development. New alliances between industry and the public sector may have some new ideas about how to solve this problem. Medicines for Malaria Venture brings together public-sector organizations and drug companies under the umbrella of the WHO.
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