Geneva, 16 December 2016 — At the sixth BRICS Health Ministerial meeting held in India today, political commitments to improve the fight against tuberculosis (TB) were reinforced at the highest level. We welcome the political willingness of BRICS governments to improve access to existing drugs and diagnostics, and support research and development (R&D) on new and more effective tools. The above efforts cannot be implemented without sufficient finances and we urge the BRICS to enhance domestic financing for TB.
It is now the sixth meeting where TB is on the health ministers’ agenda. We welcome the commitment to develop a cooperation plan going forward and translation of these commitments into concrete actions. Towards this, we encourage the BRICS to establish a structure to take the cooperation plan forward, such as a secretariat, and implement the plan.
BRICS countries collectively account for about half of the world’s TB cases. Additionally, China, Russia and India accounted for 45% of a total 580,000 new drug-resistant TB cases last year. Together, BRICS countries have the capacity to drastically reduce the global TB burden.
We request the BRICS to continue to aspire towards the 90-90-90 TB targets (reach 90% of all people with TB, reach 90% of key populations, and achieve 90% treatment success). It is critical that all people living with TB in the BRICS have access to rapid TB diagnostics and effective TB drugs. The BRICS need to also prioritize R&D including the development of rapid, simple and affordable diagnostic tests that can be used at the point of care, and for new treatments that could effectively cure all forms of TB within one-two months, in order to meet the targets mentioned above. The global TB community also needs a set of metrics, beyond the number of people reached/cured, to monitor progress towards the goals above, and to help shape demands for accountability of national governments and global health actors.
Globally, a lack of awareness on the scale of the problem does not attract sufficient funds, resources, and political leadership and accountability. Governments of countries with high TB burdens and donors must urgently support implementation of the most effective tools and strategies to get more people with TB diagnosed and put on the right treatment.
We encourage BRICS countries to both increase financial support for R&D and to designate any outputs and products, including data, diagnostics, and drugs, as ‘public goods.’ Since the BRICS already consider supporting R&D for TB as a shared responsibility, we encourage that work to be guided by the principles of affordability, effectiveness, efficiency and equity. By designating the products of R&D efforts as ‘public goods,’ the cost of investment would be delinked from the price of health products, and therefore facilitate equitable and affordable access.
Such a commitment – to declare the data and products of R&D as public goods – would demonstrate the leadership of the BRICS on fighting TB and will result in shorter, effective curative therapy for TB, including latent and its drug resistant forms.
BRICS countries have the capacity, and have expressed the willingness, to change what has been until now an inadequate response to this alarming epidemic, from poor policies to failed approaches to the development of better treatment regimens. Increased funding for TB, increased access to TB services and sharing best practices is essential to addressing this epidemic.
Governments and research institutions also have a key role in establishing a set of common priorities, based on health needs, and improvements to R&D. Governments should strive to correct today’s innovation models that impede R&D by becoming more transparent which will lead to faster and more effective development of new regimens.
The BRICS collaboration presents a unique opportunity to put into practice innovation principles that meet needs that are otherwise neglected and ensure access to affordable health services for all TB patients.
More broadly, the commitments that have been made by BRICS countries with technical and financial actions to expand universal treatment coverage, to close existing gaps in the provision of TB care are highly appreciated as signs of policy leadership that now must translate into concrete improvements in treating people with TB. Going forward the BRICS Ministers of Health must also support the United Nations High-Level meeting on TB which will take place in 2018.
How is it possible...
...that we sent people to the moon almost 50 years ago, yet millions of people with tuberculosis are still treated with old, inadequate medicines?