The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) announced the launch of a new drug development programme to address critical unmet treatment needs of children with HIV/AIDS. Because HIV transmission in young children has largely been eliminated in high-income countries due to effective prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) interventions, little market incentive exists for pharmaceutical companies to develop antiretroviral (ARV) drugs adapted for children.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends immediate antiretroviral therapy (ART) for all HIV-positive children less than two years old, but the safety and correct dosing of key ARVs have not been established in very young children, and appropriate child-adapted formulations do not exist.
“Paediatric HIV has indeed been a neglected area for innovation in drug development,” said Dr. Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of WHO’s HIV/AIDS Department. “Children’s access to HIV treatment has been low with only 28% of the children in need of HIV treatment receiving it at the end of 2009. WHO appreciates DNDi’s focus on new paediatric HIV treatments, and we look forward to working together to deliver more and better medicines for children in need.”
DNDi’s paediatric HIV programme will be led by the newly appointed Marc Lallemant, MD, formerly head of the Programs for HIV Prevention and Treatment (PHPT), a clinical research consortium of Chiang Mai University, Harvard School of Public Health, and IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le D?veloppement), based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He has studied and conducted research on HIV in pregnant women and children and on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV since 1985.
“Children living with HIV/AIDS are a neglected population, and pediatric AIDS can be considered a neglected disease,” says Dr. Lallemant. “While we must make every effort to eliminate new HIV infections among infants through large-scale access to PMTCT and maternal ART, we cannot neglect the millions of children currently and newly infected with the virus who are in dire need of treatment today.”
Source: Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, Geneva