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CDC, State Department, World Bank Should Lead Fight Against Fake, Substandard TB Drugs

“Thanks to billions of dollars spent on diagnosis and treatment [of tuberculosis (TB)] over the past decade, deaths and infections are slowly declining,” but “fake and poorly made antibiotics are being widely used to treat tuberculosis,” according to a study “to be published [Tuesday] in the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease,” Roger Bate, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and an author of the study, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. “These substandard drugs are almost certainly making the disease more resistant to drugs, posing a grave health threat to communities around the world,” he continues, noting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved a new drug to treat drug-resistant TB. Bate summarizes the study’s findings and notes “extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis called XDR-TB … has now been identified in at least 77 countries — including the United States.”

“The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is best positioned to lead the fight against substandard and fraudulent tuberculosis drugs,” Bate says, adding, “The CDC should work with the State Department’s new Office of Global Health Diplomacy and the World Bank to help foreign governments, law enforcement agencies and pharmaceutical companies strengthen drug supply chains and prevent companies from making substandard products.” He lists several steps he feels are necessary to curb the manufacture and distribution of fake and substandard drugs, including testing TB medicines for authenticity, just as the President’s Malaria Initiative does with malaria medicines it provides to developing nations. “As long as substandard tuberculosis drugs are permitted in the marketplace, people will continue to die in pursuit of a cure,” Bate writes, concluding, “And without a coordinated response, growing resistance will eventually render even the highest quality drugs obsolete” (2/5).