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World Lung Foundation Warns U.S. Budget Cuts Will Slow The Fight Against Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis

(WLF) today warned that the sequestration of the United States Federal Budget will have the unintended consequence of slowing efforts to control and eradicate tuberculosis – particularly multi-drug resistant tuberculosis – both in the U.S. and around the world.

Under the sequestration, the budget of the (TBTC), one of the premier TB clinical research groups in the world, will immediately be reduced by 25-30 percent, with a similar cut in the next financial year. The cuts will seriously reduce the TBTC’s ability to undertake effective clinical research in a timely way, dramatically slowing global progress on improving treatment for TB.

In 2011, 8.7 million people were infected and 1.4 million people died from TB, making it second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide due to a single infectious agent.  The lack of aggressive targets and funding for TB diagnosis and treatment systems and for the development of new vaccines and drug therapies means common TB continues to infect millions of people every year.

The number of Multi-Drug Resistant TB () cases continues to rise because drug sensitive TB is not being dealt with effectively; in 2011 3.7 percent of new TB cases and 20 percent of cases that received prior treatment are estimated to have multiple drug resistant TB (). Treating can cost ten times as much as treating common drug susceptible strains.

Dr. Neil Schluger, Chief Scientific Officer, World Lung Foundation, commented: “In March of this year we warned that the fight against TB was in serious danger through a lack of investment and complacency on the part of national governments, the international community and the pharmaceutical industry. News that the Tuberculosis Trials Consortium’s funding is going to be cut so radically because of the sequestration in Washington is a chilling fulfilment of that concern.”

“The TBTC has a very modest budget, but within these constraints the organisation has managed to deliver real improvements in the treatment of TB around the world. For example, TBTC proved that latent TB can be treated effectively with just 12 doses of medications rather than 270. Similarly, more recent TBTC research indicates that treatment of active TB can be shortened by 33 percent.

“In short, the output of TBTC saves governments, healthcare providers and people diagnosed with TB a considerable amount of time and money. Additionally, more effective treatment of latent and active TB may help to slow the advance of Multi-Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB) which is more deadly and massively more expensive to treat. The hard reality is that we are nearing the tipping point for the exponential spread of MDR-TB and if we want to protect public health TBTC should receive more funds to advance research in the control and treatment of MDR-TB, rather than these budget cuts,” Dr. Schluger continued.

Around one-third of the world’s population is estimated to carry latent TB and one-tenth of people infected with the disease will fall ill with TB during their lifetime. TB is most likely to strike people during their most productive years – between the ages of 25 and 40 – and is most prevalent among the poorest populations.

About the Tuberculosis Trials Consortium (TBTC)

In 1993, a group of scientists came together with funding from, and in partnership with, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The group’s objective was to conduct clinical research into tuberculosis in order to find better, safer and faster ways to treat latent and active TB. The TBTC was officially constituted in 1998, creating a network of scientists around the world to conduct TB research that would deliver almost immediate practical benefits for patients and TB control programs in the U.S. and internationally. In addition to its own studies, the TBTC works in partnership with other groups seeking to develop treatments that will be effective against multi drug-resistant strains of TB.

The TBTC has conducted an influential series of clinical trials that have resulted in over 45 publications in leading medical journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, and the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. TBTC studies have created major advances in TB treatment. For example, TBTC’s PREVENT-TB trial reduced the treatment of latent TB from 270 doses of medications to 12 doses.  Roughly 20 million people in the U.S. and a third of the world’s population are believed to carry latent TB. A recent TBTC study using high doses of the antibiotic rifapentine for active TB achieved very promising results and paves the way for a trial that could shorten treatment for the active form of the disease by 33%.


Source: World Lung Foundation