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[e-drug] TB /R&D of new treatments urgently needed

E-drug: TB /R&D of new treatments urgently needed
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      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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