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WHO claims $1.3bn annual funding gap for tuberculosis research

Says action needs to be taken now to halt spread of multi-drug resistant TB

WHO claims $1.3bn annual funding gap for tuberculosis research

An extra $1.3bn needs to be raised each year until 2016 to fund research into new tuberculosis (TB) medicines in order to tackle the growing problem of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB), according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Fund.

Commenting in advance of World TB Day on March 24, the two public health organisations said there was just $0.5bn of TB research funding available during 2011 covering new TB drugs, diagnostics and vaccines, despite increasing incidences of the disease that are resistant to current medicines.

“We are treading water at a time when we desperately need to scale up our response to MDR-TB,” said Dr Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO.

The WHO and the Global Fund were backed by non-profit Medicins Sans Frontieres, which released a statement claiming that if nothing was done to overcome barriers to research, “MDR-TB rates will continue to increase worldwide and a historic opportunity to improve abysmal cure rates will have been squandered”.

MSF highlighted two new drugs that have been developed specifically to tackle MDR-TB – Johnson & Johnson's Sirturo (bedaquiline) and Otsuka Pharmaceutical's delamanid – but emphasised that continued research funding was needed to determine the best way to use these new medicines so that treatment can be made shorter and more effective.

This point was expanded on in the MSF's 'Test me, treat me' manifesto, which demands drug regimens that are more effective, carry fewer side effects, are shorter, easier to take and do not interact with HIV treatments.

Cost is also an issue, with MSF demanding pharma companies “make existing DR-TB treatments as well as newly-developed drugs available at affordable prices in countries with the greatest burden of disease to ensure those most affected are able to access effective treatment”.

Access to TB medicines was another issue raised by the WHO and the Global Fund in their joint statement, with a further $1.6bn needed in international funding for treatment and prevention of the disease in low- and middle-income countries.

This is in addition to an estimated $3.2bn that could be provided by the countries themselves to provide full treatment for 17 million TB and MDR-TB patients.

“It is critical that we raise the funding that is urgently needed to control this disease,” said Dr Dybul, executive director of the Global Fund. “If we don't act now, our costs could skyrocket. It is invest now or pay forever.”

In addition to J&J and Otsuka, other pharma companies working in tuberculosis include AstraZeneca, which recently teamed up with biopharma Cellworks to research treatments for MDR-TB.

Meanwhile, Sanofi is working with the TB Alliance to research new medicines and GSK has made available to external research teams 200 proprietary compounds that have demonstrated signs of activity against TB.

21st March 2013

From: Research, Healthcare

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