The last 50 years have shown the fundamental ways in which the world relies on health. It is not limited to any one agenda. It has profound impacts throughout the world. Individuals, communities, and entire nations benefit from longer lives; living free of disease through vaccines, treatments, and cures; and enjoying better of quality of life living with and managing diseases. Health progress drives prosperity, wellbeing, enhanced livelihoods, economic development, and gender equality – and vice versa.

Health enables sustainable development and can further benefit from it.

This timeline shows key milestones over the 50 years from 1968 to now, highlighting transformative innovations and high-impact partnerships relating to the seven stories of progress.

Transform AND Innovate
Partner and Engage
Health Progress

1968: Studies of cancer in nonhuman primates provided compelling new evidence that the Epstein-Barr virus, discovered four years earlier, can lead to cancer in humans.

1970: Oncogenes and tumor suppressive genes are discovered, a major breakthrough in our understanding of cancer.

1971: Aspirin’s mechanism of action in its prevention of clotting was made clear, paving the way for its use as a cornerstone in antiplatelet therapy.

1971: Discovery of tamoxifen to treat and prevent breast cancer, delivering better patient outcomes.

1971: Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine approved, providing protection against three highly infectious illnesses at the same time, via one shot.

1974: Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) established to develop and expand immunization programs, initially targeting diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, measles, poliomyelitis, and tuberculosis, towards the goal of providing universal immunization for all children by 1990.

1977: The first angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitor developed for the treatment of hypertension, is discovered.

1978: First synthetic 'human' insulin produced, the first human protein to be manufactured through biotechnology, enabling patients to avoid the allergic reactions that insulin from cattle and pigs could cause.

1980: Worldwide vaccination programs result in the eradication of smallpox, a contagious virus with no known cure which killed an estimated 300-500 million people in the 20th century.

1981: First IFPMA Code of Practice developed as the foundation for industry's global self-regulation, setting ethical and professional standards.

1985: First manufactured insulin pen launched, offering greater ease of use and accuracy for patients versus the vial-and-syringe method of insulin delivery.

1987: The first antiretroviral (ARV) drug is approved by the US FDA as treatment for HIV, beginning a new era of highly active ARV treatment.

1987: Ivermectin developed for parasitic infections in animals and it is later found an effective treatment for river blindness and lymphatic filariasis in humans, two debilitating diseases which affect the world’s poorest populations.

1987: First statin approved, a key step in reducing cardiovascular disease.

1988: WHO publishes Ethical Criteria for Medicinal Drug Promotion, the first frame of reference for judging proper behavior in drug promotion.

1988: Establishment of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which has contributed to the 99.9% reduction in global incidence of polio.

1989: Biotechnology scientists identify the previously unidentified virus Hepatitis C, which is now known to affect about 2% of the world’s population.

1989: FDA approval of epoetin alpha which is considered a breakthrough in the treatment of the anemia for patients with chronic kidney disease.

1996: A new class of combined antiretroviral treatment, HAART, is developed, leading to a 50% drop in the number of AIDS-related deaths in the U.S. and Europe in three years.

1996: The Joint UN Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) is established, serving as the main advocate for accelerated global action on the epidemic which killed more than 1 million people that year.

1997: The first drug based on a monoclonal antibody (MAB), rituximab, is approved for medical use. MABs help the immune system to attack cancer. Many different MABs are available today to treat cancer, with more in clinical trials.

1999: Medicines for Malaria (MMV) launched to develop antimalarials for the most vulnerable populations.

2000: Adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a blueprint for meeting the needs of the world’s poorest with a focus on child mortality, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.

2000: Launch of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a public–private global health partnership committed to increasing access to immunization in poor countries.

2000: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is formed, focusing on improving health care to reduce extreme poverty and the largest private foundation globally.

2001: Approval of imatinib, a drug that interrupts cancer tumor signaling pathways which has allowed people with chronic myeloid leukemia to live significantly longer lives.

2002: Launch of The Global Fund, the world's largest financier of anti-AIDS, TB, and malaria programs.

2002: World Diabetes Foundation founded, a leading funding mechanism dedicated to preventing and treating diabetes in developing countries, which has provided USD$ 137 million in funding to date.

2006: Human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine approved, which protects from cervical cancer, a common cancer amongst women under 35.

2006: Approval of vaccine for rotavirus, the most common cause of diarrheal disease among infants and young children.

2006: The FDA approves the first one-a-day pill to treat HIV. The approval of Atripla not only makes the new fixed dose combination available in the U.S., but also permits its purchase under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program.

2010: Launch of the Gene Xpert molecular test for TB, a rapid test which is effective in difficult-to-diagnose and vulnerable populations, endorsed by WHO and hailed as a major breakthrough.

2010: Medicines Patent Pool is founded, the first voluntary licensing and patent pooling mechanism in public health, aiming to improve access to affordable and appropriate HIV, hepatitis C and TB medicines.

2011: Approval of direct-acting antivirals (DAAs), called protease inhibitors, which, combined with interferon and ribavirin, improve cure rates among patients with the most common hepatitis C genotype to 70%.

2012: Signing of the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases: 14 billion treatments pledged and commitment to control, eliminate or eradicate 10 debilitating NTDs responsible for more than 90% of the global neglected diseases burden by 2020.

2012: First approval of a TB drug in 40 years, bedaquiline, unique in that it interferes with the enzyme required by bacteria to replicate.

2012: Mexico City Principles for Voluntary Codes of Business Ethics in the Biopharmaceutical Sector endorsed by APEC heads of state, establishes a comprehensive ethical and integrity framework for biopharmaceutical companies.

2014: New combination therapies approved with a treatment cycle of 8-12 weeks with a 94-96% cure rate for hepatitis C.

2014: Development of CAR-T cell therapies - program T cells aim to hunt, bind to, and eliminate cancer cells.

2015: UNAIDS announces that the MDG target of 15 million people on life-saving HIV treatment by 2015 has been met 9 months ahead of schedule.

2015: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders, setting out a global sustainable development agenda which emphasizes collaboration across countries, actors, and sectors for a wide array of development outcomes, health, and wellbeing prime among them.

2015: The number of people requiring treatment and care for neglected tropical diseases falls 21% since 2010, to 1.6 billion people.

2015: Approval of oncolytic viral therapy for the treatment of advanced melanoma. Oncolytic viruses are defined as genetically engineered or naturally occurring viruses that selectively replicate in and kill cancer cells without harming the normal tissues. The treatment is directly injected into melanoma tumors.

2016: AIDS-related deaths per year are down by 50%, or 1 million, and new HIV infections per year are down 30%, or 1.8 million, since 2005.

2016: Launch of NOhep, a global movement uniting governments, medical professionals, patients, and the hepatitis community to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.

2016: 53 million lives saved through tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment since 2000.

2017: Launch of AMR Industry Alliance to reflect industry’s commitment to tackling the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance.

2017: Launch of Access Accelerated with 23 global biopharmaceutical companies, the World Bank, the Union of International Cancer Control (UICC), and Boston University to combat NCDs globally.

2017: Approval of a checkpoint immunotherapy for use against all advanced solid tumor types regardless of the site of the tumor. Pembrolizumab blocks a protective mechanism of cancer cells and allows the immune system to destroy those cancer cells.

2018: RTS,S malaria vaccine introduced in pilot immunization programmed in three African countries – Kenya, Malawi, and Ghana.

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