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Thirteen major pharmaceutical companies, government groups and health charities will work together in a push to eliminate or control by 2020 10 tropical diseases that affect more than a billion people in poor countries.

The partners, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, call it the largest coordinated effort ever to combat neglected tropical diseases, with more than $785 million in new or previous commitments.

The drugmakers will donate existing medicines and work together to speed up development of new treatments. The partners also will work on improving drug delivery and treatment programs, including prevention and education.

The diseases include leprosy, sleeping sickness, Guinea worm disease and river blindness.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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