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More Action Needed To Fight TB, As Drug Resistance Spreading

“As we mark World [Tuberculosis (TB)] Day on Sunday March 24, there can be no denying that TB, fueled by drug resistance, continues to pose a serious global health threat — one that must be urgently addressed,” John Lechleiter, chair, president and CEO of Eli Lilly and Company and chair of the board of PhRMA, writes in a Forbes opinion piece, adding, “With resistance spreading, we need a renewed global commitment that combines public and private efforts to defeat TB.” According to the WHO, more than eight million people became infected with TB in 2011 and 1.4 million died of the disease, and “between 2009 and 2011, drug-resistant TB cases doubled in the 27 most-affected countries,” he notes. However, “there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. New partnership models are marshaling the resources and knowledge required to produce new TB innovations that can outflank the disease — and ensure that patients benefit from them,” he writes.

Lechleiter describes several ongoing efforts — involving public and private partners — to develop, approve and distribute new TB diagnostics and treatments, and he writes, “While these are important pieces in the fight against TB, much more is needed.” He says prevention and “proper treatment” are “paramount,” and he calls for more training of health care providers in high-burden countries, improved access to quality medicines, integration of TB programs with existing health programs, and more resources to fight the disease. Because “none of this will be easy … we need more coordinated, high-profile global advocacy for TB control,” Lechleiter writes, concluding, “The tide began to turn against HIV/AIDS when a critical mass of voices coalesced to demand action. With drug resistance accelerating, that time is now for TB” (3/19).