Fight against neglected tropical diseases needs Big Pharma push - WHO
* Drug firms urged to do more to tackle tropical diseases
* Diseases often disfigure and disable and sometimes kill
* New medicines, vaccines in the pipeline
* Bill Gates says some diseases are on track for elimination
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, April 19 (Reuters) - Progress has been made in tackling diseases that blind, disable and disfigure millions of poor in tropical areas each year, but drug companies need to step up donations of medicines, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.
One billion people, mainly in Asia, Africa and Latin America, are still treated each year for at least one of 18 neglected tropical diseases known as NTDs, it said.
Dengue, onchocerciasis (river blindness), and sleeping sickness are among those carried by mosquitoes or flies that are spreading from rural areas to urban slums, the WHO warned.
"There is no group of diseases that is so intimately linked to poverty," Dr. Dirk Engels, director of WHO's department of control of neglected tropic diseases, told a news briefing. Continued...