Tropical rainforests, coral reefs and other wild landscapes around the world provide the ingredients for life-saving drugs that help people survive cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other grave conditions.
More than one-quarter of all prescription drugs, including over 70 percent of all cancer medications, are based on natural sources. Unfortunately, the landscapes where these natural ingredients originate are rapidly disappearing.
When ecosystems are destroyed and species are pushed into extinction, libraries of genetic information and treasure troves of complex organic compounds potentially useful to medicine are lost forever.
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Protect Human Health, Conserve Nature
Dear [ Decision Maker ],
The last remnants of the world’s natural areas are quickly disappearing, along with the plants and animals that live there. As cancer, heart disease, hypertension and diabetes survivors; family members who have lost or stood by loved ones who suffered from these diseases; and medical or pharmaceutical experts dedicated to curing disease, we feel this loss especially acutely.
More than a quarter of all medicinal drugs have active ingredients derived from nature. Many of our own lives have been saved by these medicines. We are writing to urge you to take immediate steps to halt the accelerating destruction of natural ecosystems and loss of species occurring around the world.
More than half of all drugs developed in the past 25 years have come from natural sources. Over 70 percent of all anticancer chemotherapy agents have active ingredients based on natural compounds. Some of us were treated with chemotherapy agents derived from a flowering plant discovered in Madagascar or a tree from central China. Others received medicines synthesized from compounds found in coral reefs, reptiles and fungi. Prescription drugs based on these and other natural compounds enabled us to survive illnesses such as breast cancer, lymphomas, childhood leukemia, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
We are alarmed by the escalating loss of natural ecosystems and species around the world, mostly in developing countries. More than one-third of the world’s known species are threatened with extinction, and as many as two-thirds of all species could be near extinction by the end of this century. When species are pushed into extinction, unique organic compounds potentially useful to medicine are lost forever. In fact, the loss of natural systems and species is estimated to eliminate one prescription drug from entering the market every two years between 1991 and 2050. Had the ecosystems and species that contributed to today’s modern medicines already been lost, many of us might not be here today.
From an economic standpoint, 10 of the world’s 25 top-selling drugs – several of which are made by American pharmaceutical companies – have active ingredients derived from nature. With the United States expected to produce 38 percent of the world’s commercially available medications by 2011, pharmaceuticals are a major engine of U.S. economic growth.
Of course, the loss of ecosystems and species is part of a much larger global conservation crisis. As forests, freshwater sources, healthy soils, coral reefs and species are destroyed, the world economy suffers hundreds of billions of dollars of losses and the world’s poorest people who depend directly on nature for survival are further impoverished. The burning and clearing of forests also release 20 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change.
Please take action to conserve the world’s remaining natural ecosystems and species by supporting the Global Conservation Act. It would require the U.S. government to develop a comprehensive international conservation strategy and to work with other nations to implement it. The world’s developing nations are on the front lines of the global conservation crisis. While they face the highest rates of environmental devastation, they lack the strategies, tools and funding to stop it. The Global Conservation Act won’t just save natural areas and species. It will save lives.
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