In anticipation of World TB Day today, there have been a number of media reports covering the topic of Tuberculosis over the past weeks. It’s a topic that has been garnering more and more attention, and for good reason. While notable advances been made, TB is still a public health concern in many countries in Europe, and around the world.
In 2010, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control published its special report Progress Towards TB Elimination. The 2014 ECDC and WHO TB surveillance and monitoring report tracks progress in this mission to rid Europe of TB. A follow-up to the Framework Action Plan to Fight Tuberculosis in the European Union’ showed that none of the core indicators was achieved at EU/EEA level. The most recent WHO Priority Medicines Report also drives home the need to address the TB issue.
The good news is that the conversation around TB is progressing: Healthcare stakeholders from industry to academia are in agreement that new solutions are needed. In the past six months alone, the European Medicines Agency has recommended three new medicines for patients with MDR TB. This is good news. But we can’t stop now. EFPIA Director General Richard Bergström urges caution in the recently published EurActiv special report, “The fight against tuberculosis”, noting that approval of new treatments doesn’t mean that there is a pipeline of new treatments. Richard also addressed the challenges that still remain in TB research in his blog around last year’s TB Day.
It’s true that we still have hurdles ahead – the science surrounding TB treatments has proven to be tough. We have seen vaccine trials fail and medicinal molecules disappoint. Yes, this can be discouraging, but efforts are continuing. Already, there are many tools in place in the EU to progress research in the field, from research programmes under Horizon2020 to public-private partnerships like the Innovative Medicines Initiative. Collaborative initiatives like these are essential if we are to take the necessary comprehensive approach needed to successfully tackle this growing public health issue. If we don’t act now, we risk losing the progress already made – and that would be a real loss.1