At a recent conference of medical researchers, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci spelled out what lawmakers appear to be missing in their budget balancing efforts.
“They don’t realize,” Fauci said, “that hitting biomedical research now is going to have an impact, three, four years from now.”
So efforts to let policy makers know what happens — and what has happened — when spending on tuberculosis research slows, keep coming,
“We are extremely concerned about the consequences for tuberculosis (TB) research and care as a result of sequestration funding cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Tuberculosis Trials Consortium (TBTC) in FY2013,” says a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate HHS subcommittees, signed by Mark Harrington, director of Treatment Action Group, Dr. Monica Kraft, President of the American Thoracic Society, and Dr. David Relman, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (the organization the Center for Global Health Policy, which produces this blog, works under). Addressed to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Sen Jerry Moran (R-KS), Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) the letter asks lawmakers to restore $4 million to Division of TB Elimination, to allow the TBTC to continue research to develop a shorter tuberculosis treatment regimen.
Ironically, the TBTC, which came together in the early 1990s, and was officially created in 1997, in response to the resurgence tuberculosis in this country, sprang from the recognition that neglecting research to find new treatments to the disease was having terrible consequences.
Those consequences are revealed movingly in the first episode of Exposed, a four-part series of short films on the global TB epidemic and efforts to develop the treatments and vaccine needed to stop it. Among the people followed in Chapter 1: The Global Epidemic is Natalie, a Tennessee woman who went to South Africa with her church, volunteered at a hospital housing patients with TB and HIV, and came home with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. Skipper, who underwent grueling treatment for four years before she was cured and now is a member of the Community Research Advisory Group of the TBTC, describes more of her ordeal in this Huffington Post piece, and writes: “Not every story ends as happily as mine. We have to change that.”
The film series’ second episode, The Rise of a Superbug was released this week and follows a Delhi doctor’s struggle to diagnose and treat patients confronting modern, drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis with tools and medicines created in the last century. Chapters 3 and 4, following vaccine trial participants and scientists, will be released in the coming weeks.