Health Care

Anti-TB Drugs Going to 19 Needy Countries

WHO announced that the Stop TB Partnership's Global Drug Facility and UNITAID are collaborating with 19 countries to overcome shortages of anti-tuberculosis drugs. "This collaboration will deliver drugs to more than three-quarters of a million people who otherwise might not get treatment or could have their treatment interrupted because no drugs were available," said Dr. Marcos Espinal, executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership. "Getting anti-TB drugs to people who need them and making sure they complete their treatment is the best weapon we have for preventing drug-resistant TB."

The countries getting first-line TB drugs are Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Iraq, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tajikistan, The Gambia, Togo, and Uganda. The project is restricted to anti-TB treatments suitable for people whose form of TB is not resistant to standard therapies. It will create a stockpile of anti-TB drugs for countries facing shortages because of humanitarian emergencies or inadequate capacity for planning orders, WHO said Oct. 8.

"This initiative will save lives -- that is our first priority. But it will have another important benefit: to make the market more predictable, thereby stabilizing and hopefully reducing the price of these life-saving drugs," said Dr. Jorge Bermudez, executive secretary of UNITAID, which has pledged $26.8 million to the project, enough to fund it through 2008. UNITAID was launched in September 2006 by Brazil, Chile, France, Norway, and the United Kingdom to help scale up treatment in developing countries for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB by reducing prices of drugs and diagnostics and speeding their delivery.

"We at WHO welcome the collaboration between UNITAID, the Global Drug Facility, and member states, which should inspire others to step up the fight against a disease that still causes 8.8 million new illnesses and 1.6 million deaths a year," said Dr. Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO Stop TB Department.

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