Stop TB Partnership and UNITAID Join Forces to Address Anti-tuberculosis Drug Shortfalls

2007-10-08 17:05 726

GENEVA. Oct. 8 /Xinhua-PRNewswire/ -- The Stop TB Partnership’s Global Drug Facility and UNITAID today announced a collaboration with 19 countries* to address life-threatening shortages of anti-tuberculosis (TB) drugs. The initiative will provide these drugs to countries that are scaling up their TB control efforts and have confirmed future support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria or another donor but are not able to cover their full needs at present.

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"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 project, which is restricted to anti-TB treatments suitable for people whose form of TB is not resistant to standard therapies, also provides for the establishment of a stockpile of anti-TB drugs that will be made available to countries facing shortages because of humanitarian emergencies or inadequate capacity for planning orders.

"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.

Dr Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, praised the Global Drug Facility and UNITAID for their collaboration. "The Global Drug Facility and UNITAID are providing vital stopgap coverage in countries facing shortages of anti-TB drugs, as they take steps to improve the management of their TB programmes and ensure a continuous supply of these life-saving treatments," he said.

The Global Drug Facility will provide anti-TB drugs and supplies and direct technical assistance to the 19 countries. UNITAID has committed US $26.8 million dollars to the initiative, which will cover countries for the remainder of 2007 and all of 2008.

"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 per year," said Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of the WHO Stop TB Department.

* Note to editors:

The joint Global Drug Facility/UNITAID project will provide first-line TB drugs to the following countries: 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 Global Drug Facility, the drug supply arm of the Stop TB Partnership, provides countries with the drugs and supplies needed to diagnose and treat adults and children with both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant TB. Along with drug supply it provides direct technical assistance on drug management. The Stop TB Partnership, which is hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, is a network of more then 500 international organizations, countries, patient groups, donors from the public and private sectors, and nongovernmental and governmental organizations that are working together to eliminate TB.

UNITAID is an initiative launched in September 2006 by Brazil, Chile, France, Norway and the United Kingdom to contribute to scale up access to treatment in developing countries for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis by leveraging price reductions of quality drugs and diagnostics, which currently are unaffordable for most developing countries, and to accelerate the pace at which they are made available by mobilizing innovative financing mechanisms, such as levies on airline tickets.

Source: World Health Organization