E-drug: TB /R&D of new treatments urgently needed
World Tuberculosis Day March 24, 2001
TB CURE FOR ALL? Not Quite, Says MSF
Research and Development of New Treatments Urgently Needed
Geneva, Switzerland (March 22, 2001) -- On the occasion of World
Tuberculosis (TB) Day 2001, the international medical aid agency
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) calls for more practical and
affordable treatments for tuberculosis. One third of the world's
population is currently infected with TB, at least two million
people die from it every year, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic is
exacerbating the crisis.
Despite these devastating statistics and a wealth of knowledge
on TB, little research is being done into new medicines for the
disease. The last truly innovative medicine was developed over 30
years ago and the last vaccine in 1923.
The most effective strategy currently available for treating TB
is DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment Short Course). The DOTS
approach includes direct supervision by a health care worker of the
patient's daily intake of multiple drugs for six to eight months.
This is to ensure the patient's adherence to treatment and reduces
the risk of developing multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB).
"DOTS is the best tool we currently have, and we continue using
it in our TB programmes. But for the majority of TB patients who are
poor to begin with, DOTS isn't cheap", says Ian Small, Director of
MSF's Aral Sea Area Programme in Uzbekistan
"We need to examine and expose the true cost of DOTS", Small
said. "Even under the best circumstances, the treatment is long and
labour intensive, and lapses can lead to MDR-TB."
Published research results and our own field experiences
conclude that the implementation of DOTS is most effective when it
is coupled with a comprehensive support package for the patient that
includes not only the cost of drugs and health care, but also
compensation for transportation, food, and loss of salary. This
requires a huge commitment of resources from governments and
communities in countries where health budgets are already stretched
thin, as well as from patients enrolled in the program who may not be
employable during the treatment period.
"From our experience, the need for simpler TB treatments is
painfully clear. Yet it is shocking how little research and
development is currently taking place," says James Orbinski, M.D.,
who currently heads the organization's TB drug access initiative.
"MSF strongly supports the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development in
its mandate to foster public-private partnerships aimed at finding
and developing new TB treatments", says Dr Orbinski. "But it is
imperative that governments, international agencies and the
pharmaceutical industry all step up their efforts simultaneously to
bring new, simpler drugs on the market to combat TB."
MSF currently runs more than 20 TB programs worldwide and has
launched a global campaign for access to essential medicines. For
more information, see www.msf.org and www.accessmed-msf.org
Note: "DOTS, TB Cure For All" is the tagline of the WHO-led STOP TB
initiative in 2001
For more information, please contact :
Daniel Berman +41 79 286 96 49
Laura Hakokongas +41 22 849 84 02
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