NEW YORK – Heads of states and ministers of health gathered today at the United Nations General Assembly for the first UN High Level Meeting addressing global tuberculosis with a commitment to finding and treating 40 million people sick with tuberculosis and to preventing the infection in 30 million people by 2022. After months of sometimes contentious UN member state negotiations, the political declaration resulting from the High Level Meeting includes a commitment to mobilize $13 billion for universal access to quality prevention, diagnosis and treatment, and $2 billion for research and development of new drugs, diagnostics, vaccines, and other tools.
The declaration includes a commitment to promote access to affordable medicines, including generic drugs. Early in the negotiations process, the U.S., along with other high income countries, had opposed language supporting UN member states’ rights to interpret and implement intellectual property rights in a way that protects public health and promotes access to medicines, which many global health advocates see as essential for ensuring access to affordable drugs. Despite opposition by high income countries, this language made it into the final declaration. High income countries had also opposed but failed to prevent the inclusion of language supporting the promotion of incentive mechanisms for the development of new TB drugs that separate the cost of investment in research and development from the price and volume of sales of new drugs.
The declaration highlights the urgent need to better address drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis and includes a commitment to comply with global stewardship programs in line with the UN resolution on antimicrobial resistance, which calls for improving national, regional and global actions on appropriate antibiotic use, and improving treatment adherence for people with drug-sensitive disease. It also includes a commitment to develop shorter, more effective, oral treatment regimens.
TB survivor Nandita Venkatesen highlighted an urgent need to accelerate access to new oral treatment regimens that include new TB drugs, while discontinuing the use of painful injectable drugs that lead to hearing loss and other disabilities.
“I lost my hearing in the blink of an eye,” she told global leaders at the meeting’s opening. “The injection robbed me of my fundamental dignity.”
Rabita Aziz is the Senior Global Health Policy Specialist at the Infectious Diseases Society of America and is representing IDSA (which produces this blog) at the United Nations High Level Meeting on Ending TB and related side events at the UN General Assembly this week.