MSF presses for action on drug-resistant TB

A patient takes his TB drugs at a health center in Tanzania. Medecins Sans Frontieres urges governments, donors and the pharmaceutical industry for new campaigns to fight a deadlier form of tuberculosis. Photo by: Novartis AG / CC BY-NC-ND

A concerted global effort is urgently needed to avert an “emerging global crisis of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis,” a leading medical humanitarian organization has said.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, in a statement released ahead of World Tuberculosis Day (March 24), warned that the global scope of MDR-TB appears broader than previously estimated. The group is now pressing governments, donors and the pharmaceutical industry for new campaigns and funding to fight this deadlier form of the disease.

The organization backed its call with “alarming new data” collected from its projects around the world. In a clinic in South Africa, for instance, MSF said it has seen a 211 percent increase in the number of TB diagnosis per month since the introduction of a new rapid diagnostic test. More than 13 percent of the confirmed TB cases were resistant to rifampicin, one of the most effective first-line TB treatment drugs.

Outdated diagnostic tools, expensive medicine, inadequate funding and lack of proper drug regulation are only some of the factors that contribute to and complicate the problem, MSF said. The crisis is also fueled by lengthy treatment regiments that use toxic drugs, mostly with unpleasant side effects, the group added.

“Far shorter and less toxic drug regimens are needed, along with currently non-existent formulations for children, and a point-of-care diagnostics test,” MSF said. “Regulatory measures need to be enforced to prevent further spread of the disease due to mismanagement by practitioners.”

Meanwhile, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, the Stop AIDS Campaign and the anti-poverty group Results UK released a joint statement a day before World Tuberculosis Day calling on governments to scale up funding for TB. They said 3.4 million patients will be left untreated and gains will be reversed if the $1.7 billion funding shortfall is not addressed. 

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.