Investing in TB Research: World Leaders Urged to Commit to End TB

This blog post was written by the Communications Team at the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development (TB Alliance). TB Alliance is dedicated to the discovery, development and delivery of better, faster-acting and affordable tuberculosis drugs that are available to those who need them. They are a 2018 Global Health Council Member.

A Lingering Epidemic

Tuberculosis (TB) is one of humanity’s oldest and most persistent plagues, dating back thousands of years. Despite being deemed a global health emergency in 1993, TB has since become the deadliest infectious disease in the world, killing more than 1.6 million people last year. Drug-resistant TB accounts for roughly a third of global deaths due to antimicrobial resistant infections and has tragically low survival rates, between 34% and 55% depending on how resistant the infection is to available drugs.

The absence of adequate tools – diagnostics, vaccines and drugs – to quickly and safely prevent and treat all forms of TB has allowed the pandemic to linger and spiral out of control.

                            Photo: One day of typical treatment for drug-resistant TB

Currently, treatment for drug-resistant TB is extremely complicated, expensive, and lengthy, involving a wide variety of medicines that can bring debilitating side-effects like deafness, include painful injectable drugs. These treatments are administered for nine months to two years or longer. Today, people with Multi Drug Resistant-TB (MDR-TB) often go untreated, and of those who do receive treatment only about half are cured. Innovation in TB treatment is urgently needed.

Investing in a New Generation of Cures

New drug combinations with the potential to more safely and rapidly cure all forms of TB are in late stages of development. If proven effective, transformative new cures could save millions of lives and help lift a heavy economic burden on people and governments alike. However, realizing these breakthroughs and reaching those in need is no small endeavor – true success will require a meaningful and sustained commitment to research and product development from all nations.

Breakthroughs on the Horizon

Last month,  TB Alliance announced the launch of the SimpliciTB trial, a pivotal clinical trial to determine whether the new BPaMZ drug regimen can treat TB and drug-resistant TB more quickly and effectively than currently-available treatments, reducing TB treatment by a third and MDR-TB treatment by as much as 18 months. With additional investments in research and development for new cures, we can further build out the evidence base for transformative new treatments and overcome the threat of TB.

It’s Time for World Leaders to Act

Major advances in TB treatment, prevention and diagnosis present game-changing new technologies that can save lives, keep families together and position communities and countries for success without the burdens of this ancient disease.

The first-ever UN High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis (HLM) on September 26 is a landmark opportunity to marshal political will and resources to end TB and achieve this vision. Member states can defeat TB and overcome antimicrobial resistance by closing the funding gap for TB research and product development through equitable approaches, securing universal access to new medicines and fostering global collaboration.

In the years to come, we expect to look back at this meeting’s outcome as the moment when world leaders marshalled the political will and resources needed to finally end TB and leave no one behind.

Learn more about TB Alliance here.