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Drug Companies Developing Novel Treatments For MDR-TB

With incentives to find new antibiotics signed into U.S. law last month, “multiple players are vying for the lead in the [multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB)] drug development niche,” Nature Medicine reports. “The fifth reauthorization of the U.S. Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), signed into law on 9 July, includes a subsection called the Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now (GAIN) Act that aims to spur development of antibiotics for drug-resistant bacteria, including MDR-TB,” the news service writes, noting, “Drug makers that ask for approval of medicines to treat these pathogens will receive priority review, as well as five additional years of market exclusivity and fast-track status.” Currently, MDR-TB treatment “involves a bevy of regular tuberculosis medicines that, in many cases, must be administered for as long as two years or more … [and] don’t always work,” Nature Medicine states, adding, “The hope is that new medicines will shorten treatment times and improve cure rates.” The article discusses several medicines that are in different phases of research (Willyard, 8/6).

Global Fund Releases Funding Recommendations For Transitional Funding Mechanism

“The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria [on Monday] released the funding recommendations of its Technical Review Panel for the Transitional Funding Mechanism,” the Stop TB Partnership reports in an article on its webpage. “Grant proposals for tuberculosis (TB) received 25 percent ($127.4 million) of all the approved funding ($510 million) — a marked increase over the historic average share of 16 percent since the Global Fund was established in 2002,” the article notes, adding, “TB applications were also most successful, with an 86 percent recommendation rate; malaria applications engendered a 79 percent recommendation rate and HIV proposals a 62 percent recommendation rate” (8/21).

U.S. Support Of PEPFAR, Global Fund Helping To Achieve Global AIDS, TB, Malaria Goals

In this post in Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Deborah Derrick, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, examines “the success of U.S. efforts to promote better global health through support for [PEPFAR] and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.” She highlights U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to Africa, writing that Clinton’s “encouraging words” at the Reach Out Mbuya health center in Uganda reinforced U.S. commitment to an AIDS-free generation. She notes both PEPFAR and the Global Fund have supported the center and adds that “through hundreds of similar local programs all over the world, the Global Fund provides treatment to 3.6 million people who are HIV-positive.”

Small, Ingestible Sensor Can Track Patient Medication Intake, Activity Levels; Technology To Be Tested For TB Treatment

The FDA last month approved for use a small ingestible sensor that, when embedded into a pill, can help “keep track of whether a patient is taking their medicine on time,” Reuters reports. “The digital feedback technology, devised by Redwood City, California-based Proteus Digital Health Inc., can also prompt patients to take their medicine and even ask them to take a walk if they have been inactive for too long,” the news service writes. “Proteus has a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention to test the technology in tuberculosis treatment,” Reuters notes, adding, “Pills for anything from the common cold to diabetes or cancer can be embedded.”

Health Workers Feeling Effects Of Staff, Supply Shortages At Clinics In Southwestern Uganda

Health workers with Medical Teams International, a medical non-governmental organization, “say they are overwhelmed” by high demand at five health clinics in two southwestern Ugandan refugee centers, PlusNews reports. The refugees, “many of whom came from conflict-prone areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” and local residents are in need of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) prevention information, and care and treatment services, according to the news service. “Uganda suffers from a chronic shortage of health workers — less than half of the vacant health positions are filled — but the recent influx of refugees fleeing violence in neighboring DRC has put even more pressure on [the region's] health services,” PlusNews writes. Physicians, who see 30 to 50 patients daily and often work double shifts, say gaps in the supplies of antiretroviral (ARV) and TB drugs poses concern, as does trying to follow-up with patients who may not return for visits, the news service notes (3/29).

Stop TB Partnership, TAG Release Report On Tuberculosis Research Funding

The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports the findings from the second edition of the 2011 Report on Tuberculosis (TB) Research Funding and Trends from 2005-2010, released Thursday by Treatment Action Group (TAG) and the Stop TB Partnership. “TB research and development investment increased 76 percent between 2005 and 2010, but investment has slowed markedly, with only two percent growth since 2009,” the blog notes, adding, “The $630.4 million 2010 investment is only one-third of the $2 billion needed to stay on track with the Global Plan to Stop TB 10-year implementation and research strategy to eliminate TB as a public health threat by 2050” (Mazzotta, 3/28).

South Africa Announces Initiative To Test Thousands Of Miners For TB

“South Africa wants to test hundreds of thousands of miners for tuberculosis [TB] and ensure sufferers get treatment over the next year,” David Mametja, head of South African National Department of Health’s TB program, said Tuesday at a workshop organized by the Stop TB Partnership, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. Mametja “said the government is concerned the high prevalence of the disease among miners is holding an entire region back in the fight against TB,” and that while “it may be impossible to reach the nearly 600,000 miners in South Africa in one year, even those at highest risk in the gold industry, … setting an ambitious target is a way to show ‘it’s not business as usual,’” the AP writes.

Lancet Editorial Calls For TB Control, Elimination Efforts To Be On G20 Agenda

In anticipation of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, commemorated on March 24, this Lancet editorial examines TB control and elimination efforts in 2012 and beyond. “Tuberculosis killed 1.45 million people in 2010 and about 500,000 people have drug-resistant disease,” the editorial states, adding, “Despite a woeful funding gap in 2012 of $1.7 billion, tuberculosis incidence is falling (from 9.4 million in 2009 to 8.8 million in 2010).” The editorial notes, “Ten new or repurposed tuberculosis drugs are in Phase II or III trials, which hopefully will reduce treatment times to about four months, compared with present multidrug-resistant tuberculosis regimens lasting 18-24 months,” adding, “Faster treatment will greatly improve adherence, reduce transmission, and cut costs.”

U.N. SG Calls For ‘Global Solidarity’ In Fight Against TB

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday during a visit to the Institute of Respiratory Medicine in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, “urged countries to step up their efforts to prevent tuberculosis (TB)” and “called for ‘intensified global solidarity to ensure that the children and people of all the countries get medical support, so that they can breathe with health,’” the U.N. News Centre reports. Speaking ahead of World Tuberculosis Day on March 24, Ban said “that countries have the means to prevent unnecessary deaths, but need to implement policies that not only raise awareness about the issue but provide accessible health care to their citizens,” according to the news service. In 2011, 1.4 million people died of TB, the news service notes (2/22).

NGOs Release Joint Statement Calling For Governments To Increase Payments To Global Fund To Fill Gap In TB Funding

Ahead of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day on March 24, three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) released a joint statement warning that “[a] $1.7 billion funding shortfall to fight [TB] over the next five years means 3.4 million patients will go untreated and gains made against the disease will be reversed,” Reuters reports. The International HIV/AIDS Alliance, the Stop AIDS Campaign and Results UK said in the statement that the cancellation of Round 11 grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was endangering the expansion of treatment and prevention programs, the news agency notes. The statement “called on governments to scale up funding of TB, HIV and malaria programs at a G20 meeting in Mexico in June in an effort to replenish the Global Fund with $2 billion,” according to Reuters (Mollins, 3/23).