Ten years on, the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GPELF) deserves praise, says David H. Molyneux. But there is still some way to go before we eliminate the disease — complacency is out of the question, he adds.
Donations of key drugs from large pharmaceutical companies — notably GlaxoSmithKline and Merck & Co Inc — have done much to help the GPELF. Around 1.3 billion donated tablets have been distributed, and a further 4.65 billion bought. At the end of 2007, 48 countries had active treatment programmes for lymphatic filariasis and the GPELF has reached more than half a billion people.
And it has brought many indirect benefits, says Molyneux. In Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, the GPELF has provided a platform for other neglected disease programmes including schistosomiasis and onchocerciasis. De-worming, carried out by the GPELF, also has positive effects on anaemia, nutrition, growth and cognitive function.
China and South Korea have eliminated the disease. But 81 countries still remain endemic. While the GPELF is a key component of the global movement against neglected tropical diseases, the ultimate objective to eliminate lymphatic filariasis must remain at the forefront of the GPELF's vision.
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