TB R&D spending climbs — but not enough

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In time for meetings of international leaders, 2016 boost in TB investments sets new — but low — bar, as well as impetus to gain on momentum, advocates say

Investment in research and development toward new tuberculosis drugs, diagnostic tests and preventive measures increased in 2016 for first time in seven years, exceeding the previous year’s spending by a little more than $100 million, and passing the $700 million mark for the first time in 12 years of tracking, a report released by the Treatment Action Group today says.

Optimistically titled The Ascent Begins, the report shows spending from national governments and multilateral organizations drove the increase.

The rise in public dollars committed to the discovery and development of improved tools with which to control tuberculosis is late, but timely, the author notes. It could inspire raised expectations, and calls for meaningful commitments from national leaders at the upcoming World Health Organization Global Ministerial Conference on Ending TB in the Sustainable Development Era in Moscow next week, as well as at the United Nations General Assembly meeting on tuberculosis set for 2018.

But, the author also writes, while 2016’s $726.1 million sets a “new baseline” for tuberculosis research and investments spending, it still represents only a third of what TB response advocates and leaders have concluded is needed to develop tools to accurately diagnose the disease in resource-limited settings, to combat drug-resistance and treat the disease effectively with less toxic accessible medicines and shorter regimens, and to prevent infection and sickness, in time to meet goals to end the impacts of tuberculosis by 2030. The Stop TB Partnership has estimated that supporting the necessary research requires a $9 billion investment from 2016 to 2020.

In addition, the increase, which also was bolstered by philanthropic contributions, was accompanied by a continued decline in private spending, with pharmaceutical industry investments in tuberculosis medicines, diagnostics and prevention at its lowest level since 2009, according to the report.

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