It’s a disease that affects some 2 billion people worldwide, kills nearly 1.5 million each year and creates another 9 million cases over the same period: tuberculosis. Crucially, health systems are still failing some 3.3 million TB sufferers by missing diagnoses, failing to treat, or not managing to capture potential patients in national TB programmes (NTPs). In fact, the StopTB Partnership estimates that there is a $2 billion shortfall in funding to curb to TB epidemic.
Equally worrying is the fact that almost half a million people developed multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) in a single year, with extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) reported by 100 countries. With three-quarters of drug-resistant TB going undiagnosed, there is an urgent need for countries to address this issue and increase national investment in tackling the problem.
It is widely acknowledged that much of the existing technology used to address the TB epidemic is either ageing or simply outdated. Treatment regimens are often long and complicated and point-of-care diagnosis is severely restricted.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The World Health Organization stresses that, although the rate of decline in TB incidence is slow, we remain on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of reversing the spread of TB globally by 2015. Partners, including healthcare stakeholders from industry, government and academia, are driving towards a bigger, goal, though: accelerating progress towards ending TB by 2035. This is a major facet of the WHO’s End TB Strategy, which envisions a world free of TB with zero deaths, disease and suffering.
World TB Day, which falls on 24 March 2015, represents a real opportunity for all healthcare stakeholders to come together to address an epidemic that can and should be made a disease of the past. The onus is on governments, donors, affected communities, NGOs, health-care providers, and the private sector to unite with the principal aim of driving forward a strategy to reach, treat and cure all TB sufferers. This represent a significant opportunity to reduce and ultimately eliminate access barriers to all recommended TB diagnostics and drugs.
It is also a chance to endorse the the World Health Assembly resolution of May 2014 approving a post-2015 Global TB Strategy with ambitious targets. This focuses on reducing TB deaths by 95% and cutting new cases by 90% between 2015 and 2035. It also sets interim milestones of a reduction of 35% by 2020, 75% by 2025, and 90% by 2030.
The pharmaceutical industry is determined to make a pivotal contribution towards turning the tide against TB and achieving these goals through engaging with all stakeholders on the development of treatment options, healthcare system design and future research. Medicines manufacturers continue to make meaningful advances in patient care and continue to invest in research and development to support the fight against tuberculosis.
Within the EU research programmes already exist under Horizon2020. to public-private partnerships like the Innovative Medicines Initiative. The industry also has high hopes for the Innovative Medicines Initiative-funded PreDiCT-TB project, which aims to speed up the search for new, more effective combinations of treatments to tackle TB. Funded through a public-private partnership to the tune of €28.5 million, the project aims to develop an integrated set of laboratory-based models to generate essential data to indicate the most appropriate doses and combinations of drugs for patients.
It is though collaborative initiatives such as IMI that we will able to reverse and ultimately put an end to the TB epidemic. To ensure that all our efforts against TB are effective and sustainable, concerted action from all healthcare stakeholders, both in the public and private sectors, is critical.0