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Pharmaceutical Industry, International Community Must Place Drug-Resistant TB On Agenda

Writing in The Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network” blog, Emily Wise, a doctor volunteering with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan, an area where drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) is endemic, examines the conflict surrounding the treatment of the disease with a drug that can cause depression and suicidal thoughts. “It’s not underlying mental illness that causes people on TB drugs to become depressed. It’s a chemical effect resulting from the ingestion of cycloserine, one of the cocktail of drugs we must use to treat drug-resistant TB,” she writes, noting, “Though cycloserine is primarily to blame, there can be no denying that other things contribute to episodes,” such as “[t]he stigma of being a TB patient, a patient’s pill burden (the number of drugs they have to take on a daily basis) and the duration of the treatment.” She continues, “I’m forced to acknowledge that the tools we currently have against drug-resistant TB are, at best, just a holding measure and not a solution,” concluding, “We need the pharmaceutical industry and the international community to put this disease on their agenda and give doctors and patients what they so desperately need: new compounds against drug-resistant TB” (8/2).