Physicians for Social Responsibility Calls on U.S.
to Fund Malaria Research and Alternatives to DDT
May 15, 1998
The United States is now preparing the position it will take in upcoming treaty negotiations to phase out persistent organic pollutants, or "POPs", including DDT - an insecticide that is used to kill mosquitoes that transmit malaria. According to Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), DDT is a threat to health and should be eliminated. In doing so, however, the doctors warn that we must not neglect efforts to prevent the spread of malaria.
"The U.S. must do more to develop alternatives to insecticide spraying, such as eliminating standing water, promoting the use of bed nets, and developing non-chemical methods of pest control," said Robert K. Musil, Ph.D., executive director of PSR. "At the same time, we must accelerate our research efforts to develop a vaccine for the disease. Developing countries will have little incentive to cooperate in POPs treaty negotiations in June 1998 without assurances that these actions are underway."
Malaria kills 2.7 million people each year, mostly children and pregnant women, and in Sub-Saharan Africa alone destroys nearly twice as many years of productive life as do all cancers in all economically-developed countries. But U.S. government funding for researching malaria, at under $73 million a year, is a pittance in comparison to other diseases. Cancer, for instance, receives over $2.5 billion in research funding yearly. Funding for malaria research is so tight that drug and vaccine candidates which are suitable and ready for clinical trials cannot be put through the FDA's pharmaceutical approval process.
Malaria is on the agenda of the Group of Eight leaders summit in Birmingham, England, this weekend. It is expected that Asian and European leaders will announce funding increases in excess of a hundred million dollars. The Clinton Administration has yet to agree to any increase at all. "If the Administration wishes to advance its environmental agenda with the POPs treaty, it must make this commitment now," said Dr. Musil. "With climate change exacerbating the spread of malaria, we cannot afford to wait."