TB advocates call on organizations, leaders to work together, speed access to existing treatments for drug resistant tuberculosis

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They would like an answer on March 24

When World TB Day next Tuesday commemorates the discovery in 1882 of the bacteria that causes the disease, announcements and op-ed pieces will note the progress that has been made since, and will certainly call for more. A group of 89 organizations that last week sent a letter to agencies, leaders, and pharmaceutical companies involved in TB product dissemination also is hoping to get an answer that day to their call for those parties to work together, and make use now of existing solutions.

The 21 recipients of the letter include leaders of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria, of UNITAID, the global initiative to increase access to treatments through innovative financing, of the Medicines Patent Pool, the U.N-backed organization that works to lower the prices of HIV medicines, of the Infectious Diseases Division of USAID, as well as of pharmaceutical companies Novartis, Otsuka and Janssen. Other recipients include former PEPFAR leader, and now U.N. Special Envoy for TB Eric Goosby, World Health Organization Global TB program leader Mario Raviglione, and World Bank Global AIDS Program Director David Wilson.

The letter calls on all of them to agree to and announce a partnership on Tuesday, World TB Day, with the goal of accelerating access to TB treatments that few have access to now, and that for many represent their best hope of surviving the disease.

Those medicines include bedaquiline, the first drug with a new approach to treating TB to gain regulatory approval when the U.S. Food and  Drug Administration in 2012  decided the drug could be used for patients with drug-resistant strains of disease, and delamanid, approved by the European Medicines Agency for treatment of drug-resistant disease in 2014. In the time since those approvals bedaquiline, marketed as Sirturo, has been made available to only about 600 of the hundreds of thousands of people to whom the drug represents a last resort, and delamanid has been given to fewer than 10 people outside of clinical trials. The letter calls for the new partnership to aim for the enrollment of 500 patients on bedaquiline treatment by July 2015 and 500 patients to receive treatment with delamanid by January 2016. The partnership’s goals also should include efforts to accelerate registration of the drugs, efforts to monitor their safety, and development of efficient drug procurement strategies, the letter says.

The letter also notes that no word, or action has followed an announcement by USAID and Janssen in December of an agreement to distribute 30,000 courses of bedaquiline (or, as Janssen put it $30 million worth of a drug it had priced at $1,000 per treatment), and also asks for the details of a plan that reflects community input for that distribution to be released Tuesday.

Signers of the letter include Médecins Sans Frontières, ACTION, Treatment Action Campaign and Treatment Action Group.




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