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Aidspan Founder, Executive Director Bernard Rivers Stepping Down

The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog profiles Bernard Rivers, founder and executive director of Aidspan, a watchdog of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, who is leaving his position after 10 years. “He will not be running Aidspan anymore, but plans to continue to research and write about Global Fund issues,” the blog states. In the blog, Rivers discusses his motivation behind founding Aidspan and his hopes for the future of the Global Fund (Barton, 8/30).

U.S., Nigeria Inaugurate Defense Reference Laboratory In Abuja

U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Terence McCulley spoke on Monday in Abuja at the inauguration of a Defense Reference Laboratory, Leadership reports, noting he said the laboratory, “which is the first of its kind in the sub-region,” was supported by U.S. funding. According to the newspaper, McCulley said the Reference Laboratory Program is part of U.S. assistance to Nigeria through a partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and Nigeria’s Ministry of Defense (NMOD) through the Walter Reed Program (WRP-N) and the Emergency Plan Implementation Committee (EPIC), which began in 2005 (8/30).

MDR-TB, XDR-TB More Widespread Than Previously Believed, Study Shows

In a study published on Wednesday in the Lancet, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “[a]mong 1,278 patients who were resistant to two or more first-line tuberculosis drugs in Estonia, Latvia, Peru, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and Thailand, 43.7 percent showed resistance to at least one second-line drug,” which “suggest[s] the deadly disease may become ‘virtually untreatable,'” according to the study, Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Kitamura/Narayan, 8/29). “In about a fifth of cases, they found resistance to at least one second-line injectable [versus oral] drug,” according to Reuters, which states “[t]his ranged from two percent in the Philippines to 47 percent in Latvia.” Overall, 6.7 percent of patients had extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB), meaning patients are resistant to the first-line drugs isoniazid and rifampicin as well as drugs in the fluoroquinolone antibiotic class and a second-line injectable antibiotic, Reuters adds, noting “[r]ates in South Korea, at 15.2 percent, and Russia at 11.3 percent, were more than twice the WHO’s global estimate of 5.4 percent at that time” (Kelland, 8/30).

Global Fund Board Approves 45 New Two-Year Grants As Part Of Transitional Funding Mechanism

“The Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has approved 45 new two-year grants, from 37 countries, totaling $419.2 million, to fund essential prevention, treatment, and care services provided to the people affected by the three diseases,” according to a Global Fund press release. “Another 11 proposals worth a total of $91.2 million were sent back for revision, and are subject to a further independent technical review before they can be approved,” the press release adds, noting the grant approvals are part of the Transitional Funding Mechanism and “will bridge the financing of essential interventions until the next opportunity to apply for grants” (8/28). According to the U.N. News Centre, the Global Fund “has approved funding of $22.9 billion for more than 1,000 programs in 151 countries, and helped programs provide AIDS treatment for 3.6 million people, anti-tuberculosis treatment for 9.3 million people, and 270 million insecticide-treated nets for the prevention of malaria” (8/28).

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.”

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.”

GeneXpert TB Test Maker Cepheid Signs Deals With PEPFAR, USAID, Others To Provide Lower-Cost Kits

Diagnostics company Cepheid on Monday signed deals with PEPFAR, USAID, UNITAID, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to immediately reduce the price of its Xpert MTB/RIF test kit for its GeneXpert tuberculosis (TB) diagnostic system in 145 countries, Reuters reports. “The agreements will see the test sold for $9.98, down from its current price of $16.86 per test,” the news service writes, adding, “Cepheid said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will make an initial payment of $3.5 million to make the test immediately available at the lower price” (Ail, 8/6).

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).

Limited Funding, Lack Of Flexibility Forces Decisions On How To Spend Money On Disease Treatment

Noting “the total clinic-level cost of providing a year’s worth of antiretroviral drugs … ha[s] dropped” in some countries, Charles Kenny, a fellow at the Center for Global Development and the New America Foundation, discusses “disagreement over the effectiveness of the global AIDS response” in this Bloomberg Businessweek opinion piece. Kenny highlights a debate that took place last week on the sidelines of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) that “focused on the question: should we use resources for antiretrovirals at a cost (including overhead) of perhaps $350 per patient per life year saved if we could use those resources to provide a course of drugs to cure victims of tuberculosis at a cost of $5 to $50 per life year, or of extending childhood immunizations at the cost of $2 to $20 per life year?” He writes, “Simply, millions of people are dying unnecessarily, for lack of $350 a year or less. It may be those who don’t get AIDS treatment, or those that don’t get other treatments because the available money is being used to buy antiretrovirals.” He continues, “If anything could open treasury accounts in the rich world to provide a larger flow of resources to global health, perhaps it is to get policymakers in those countries to think through these gut wrenching decisions that limited funding (and lack of funding flexibility) forces doctors and ministers and activists alike to make every day” (7/27).

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