Leaders representing the French and Netherlands governments have urged for funding to develop new treatment and prevention tools against drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) at a meeting held in Brussels.
The meeting was organised by TuBerculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI), TB Alliance, and Deutsche StiftungWeltbevölkerung (DSW), a global development NGO.
In the European Union, the number of cases of TB is relatively low but according to World Health Organisation (WHO), the region has one of the highest rates of drug-resistant TB in the world.
French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and international development special ambassador Michèle Boccoz said: “Because of drug resistance, TB is evolving to become an untreatable disease for a growing number of people.
“Investment in research and development now will allow us to have the drugs and vaccines at hand to eventually end the threat of TB as a health problem in Europe.”
AMR Review estimated that drug-resistant TB will be responsible for an additional 2.1 million deaths in Europe at an economic cost of $1.1 trillion by 2050.
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Dutch Ministry of Health senior policy advisor Marja Esveld said: “Without tools such as new drugs and vaccines, we know we cannot reach our goals for controlling TB.
“Now is the time to step up the resources to ensure we have the means to effectively end the epidemic and address the emerging threat of drug-resistant TB.”
WHO has initiated an ‘End TB Strategy’ that plans to decrease TB deaths by 95% and reduce new cases by 90% between 2015 and 2035.
In the EU, WHO targets to reduce new TB cases by 25% and increase success rate among multidrug-resistant TB patients to 75% within 2016-2020.
TB Alliance president and CEO Dr Mel Spigelman said: “For those people already suffering from drug-resistant TB, more effective, more tolerable, shorter acting, and less expensive treatment options are desperately needed.
“To curb drug resistance, we need political will and a commitment of significantly more resources for research and development into new drug treatments.”
Currently, the shortest treatment for drug-resistant TB, which includes a combination of pills and injections, takes at least nine months and can go up to two years or more.
Less than half of all people with multidrug-resistant TB are cured successfully.
A Global Ministerial Conference on TB is scheduled to be held in Moscow this November, followed by the UN high-level meeting in September 2018.