World Health Day 2014: focus on diseases transmitted by vectors

News 04/04/2014

World Health DayThe European Medicines Agency supports World Health Day 2014. World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948. It provides an opportunity to highlight the WHO's priority areas of public health.

This year the theme of World Health Day is vector-borne diseases. These diseases are caused by parasites that are transmitted to people by organisms (vectors) such as mosquitoes, flies and ticks.

Malaria and dengue fever are the vector-borne diseases that have the greatest impact on public health. The WHO estimates that in 2012, there were 207 million cases of malaria worldwide with an estimated 627,000 deaths, mostly in children under five years of age.

Dengue fever is a leading cause of serious illness and death among children in some Asian and Latin American countries. Its global incidence has increased more than 30-fold over the last 50 years. According to the WHO, there may be between 50 and 100 million dengue-fever infections worldwide every year.

These two diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes, as are lymphatic filariasis, chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever.

Vector-borne diseases are most commonly found in tropical areas and places where access to safe drinking water and sanitation systems is problematic.

While these types of diseases occur at a large scale globally, they are rare in Europe.

The Agency has a regulatory framework (Article 58 of Regulation (EC) No 726/2004) that allows the Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) to give scientific opinions, in cooperation with the WHO, for medicines that are exclusively intended for use in non-European Union (EU) countries, in order to accelerate access of patients to important new medicines in those countries. This procedure is open to medicines that are intended to prevent or treat diseases of major public-health interest.

Among the seven medicines that have been assessed through this procedure so far, one medicine, Pyramax, an artemisinin combination treatment, is intended for the treatment of malaria.

The other medicines that have received CHMP scientific opinions under Article 58 include vaccines used in the WHO Expanded Programme on Immunization, and medicines for the treatment of HIV infection, one of the WHO's target diseases.

Within the Article-58 framework, the Agency also provides scientific advice in response to scientific questions concerning the quality, non-clinical and clinical aspects of medicines intended to be marketed exclusively outside the EU.

During these procedures, the Agency involves experts from local national regulatory authorities, thereby contributing to capacity building in the regulatory and clinical development areas.

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