Tackling Noncommunicable Diseases Requires Improving Access to Innovative Therapies

Cancer and cardiovascular disease are on the rise in developing countries.

While the world has been focused on responding to the global health emergencies of the Zika and Ebola viruses, the burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) has been quietly growing over the past decade. But now global health leaders are turning their attention to the rising threat posed by NCDs.[1]

This week, Celgene and nearly 25 other partner organizations launched the Access Accelerated initiative to raise awareness for and enhance access to prevention and care for NCDs in low- and middle-income countries, which are hit the hardest by these diseases.

“Collaboration among governments, non-government organizations and the private sector is critical to making real, measurable global progress against the rising health burden of noncommunicable diseases,” Mark Alles, CEO of Celgene, said. “We are excited to be part of the Access Accelerated Initiative, committed to working together to reduce the impact of NCDs for patients, health systems and economies.”[2]

Collaboration among governments, non-government organizations and the private sector is critical to making real, measurable global progress against the rising health burden of noncommunicable diseases.

In 2012, NCDs—which include cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory disease—took the lives 38 million people, representing 68 percent of all deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).[3] The agency projects NCD deaths will total 44 million per year by 2030. The greatest increases are expected to come from Africa, South-East Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean.[4]

Recognizing that substantial impact, the United Nations included reducing premature deaths from NCDs by one-third in its Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Achieving this goal requires ensuring patients in the developing world—where almost three-quarters of NCD deaths take place—have access to diagnosis and treatment.[5]

growing-burden-noncommunicable-diseases

The challenge of improving access to care for NCDs in developing countries is significant but not insurmountable. Global health experts point to the example of how partnerships tackled HIV in the developing world. Access to innovative antiretroviral therapies in low- to middle-income countries increased by more than 3,000 percent between 2002 and 2012.[1] As a result of that improved access, HIV has transformed from a death sentence to a chronic, manageable disease for much of the developing world.[2]Public-private partnerships were essential then for HIV as they are now for NCDs.

Access Accelerated is a prime example of such a partnership focused on solving the global health challenge of NCDs. The coalition consists of 22 biopharmaceutical companies, the World Bank and the Union of International Cancer Control (UICC). It will reduce duplication and siloed efforts, bringing the right people together to find long-term solutions through multiple pilot programs in countries that have gaps in and barriers to patient access. The focus will initially be on cancer before expanding to include other diseases.[1]

Like the Zika and Ebola viruses, NCDs place an unequal burden on low- and middle-income countries, taking millions of lives well before their time. And just like the response to those outbreaks, public-private partnerships will improve access to innovative treatments that will help tackle the growing burden of NCDs in the developing world.

To learn more about the goals and vision for the partnership, visit the Accelerated Access website.


[1] Research shows higher risk of developing non-communicable diseases in Africa. World Health Organization. 2016. http://www.afro.who.int/en/media-centre/pressreleases/item/9285-research-shows-higher-risk-of-developing-non-communicable-diseases-in-africa.html Accessed 1/12/2017.
[2] Celgene Press Release.
[3] Global status report on noncommunicable diseases 2014. World Health Organization. 2014. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/148114/1/9789241564854_eng.pdf Pg. 13. Accessed 1/12/2017.
[4] Global status report on noncommunicable diseases 2014. World Health Organization. 2014. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/148114/1/9789241564854_eng.pdf Pg. 13. Accessed 1/12/2017.
[5] Global status report on noncommunicable diseases 2014. World Health Organization. 2014. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/148114/1/9789241564854_eng.pdf Pg. 13. Accessed 1/12/2017.
[6] Global update on HIV treatment 2013: results, impact and opportunities. World Health Organization. 2013. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/85326/1/9789241505734_eng.pdf Accessed 1/12/2017.
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3078828/ Accessed 1/12/2017.