The Time is Now: MSF and TB experts call for new approach to test TB drugs
Tuberculosis is spreading like wildfire among people living with HIV. It was appropriate therefore that the biggest annual meeting on TB - the Union World Conference on Lung Health of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease - took place this year in southern Africa where between 65% to 80% of TB patients are co-infected with HIV. Drug resistant TB is on the rise everywhere in the region – people with HIV are prone to recurrent bouts of TB – but because of hopelessly inadequate diagnostic tools, the full extent of the disease in the region is not known.
MSF joined international experts in calling for new drug trials that could speed up the delivery of newer and better medicines for patients suffering from drug-resistant TB. The proposed trials were outlined in a scientific paper published by PLoS to coincide with the conference.
Currently, the main strategy in TB drug development is to develop a completely new regimen of TB drugs. While this is an important objective, it will not be realised for at least a decade.
That is too long to wait for patients suffering from drug-resistant TB at present and the nearly half a million new cases that emerge every year. Current treatment for drug-resistant TB is very long (up to two years), ineffective and produces often intolerable side effects.
The Global Alliance for TB drug development – the dominant player in the field - said they would reconsider their own strategy to move in this direction in the light of these papers.
MSF calls for new approach to TB drug development:
Read the press release
MSF also held a satellite meeting to explore new ways of treating drug-resistant patients in the community and a day-long diagnostics symposium that gave an overview of the tools currently in use or under development and discussed how they could be made to work better.