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Tibotec, TB Alliance Join To Expedite Development Of Promising TB Drug

The pharmaceutical company Tibotec said it will join with the non-profit Global Alliance for Tuberculosis Development (TB Alliance) to speed up the development of the experimental TB drug TMC207, Health-e/IOL reports (Thom, Health-e/IOL, 6/18). Tibotec, which is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, announced the news on Wednesday at the Pacific Health Summit in Seattle (Doughton, Seattle Times, 6/18).

A recent study found that TMC207 cleared traces of the TB bacteria in the sputum of 48 percent of study volunteers after eight weeks, which could make conventional TB treatment five times more effective against multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) (Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report, 6/4).

Under the agreement, Tibotec will continue to develop the drug and then seek approval and establish access programs for it in developing countries. “The agreement grants the TB Alliance a royalty-free license for the worldwide development and access to TMC207 in the field of drug-susceptible TB,” Reuters reports. The company will also collaborate with the TB Alliance on a “discovery research program to identify new compounds” for TB treatment, Reuters writes, adding that costs for the development of TMC207 will be shared (Beasley, Reuters, 6/17).

IRIN published an article examining the development of TMC207, which could “drastically improve the treatment of TB” and MDR-TB and also shorten the current treatment duration (IRIN, 6/17).

The Seattle Times reports that TMC207 is one of “several promising” TB drugs in the pipeline for the “first time in more than 40 years.” TB treatment requires several medications at once to kill the evolving bacteria, Tachi Yamada, chief of global health for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said. According to the Seattle Times, “companies that normally compete will have to work together so their drugs can be tested in combination,” and Bill Gates recently met with the heads of some drug companies “to ask for their cooperation. The foundation also weighed in at a recent FDA advisory-committee meeting to urge changes to rules that require drugs be tested one at a time” (Seattle Times, 6/18).

BD, FIND Announce 80% Cost Reduction For Liquid Drug-Resistant TB Tests

Also at the summit, the medical technology firm Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD) and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) – “a Swiss foundation that develops, evaluates and accelerates the implementation of new diagnostic tools for poverty-related diseases” – announced an 80 percent price reduction in the cost of liquid culture testing for drug-resistant TB, Health-e/IOL reports. The price reduction is the result of a November 2007 agreement between BD and FIND to further reduce already below-market prices after the creation of 3.5 million tests. The announcement came five months earlier than expected, according to Health-e/IOL.

Giorgio Roscigno, FIND’s chief executive officer, said the agreement means that “it will be possible to make this test more accessible and affordable to those who need it most, which is very encouraging and promising” (Health-e/IOL, 6/18).

British Advocate ‘Notably Absent’ From Summit

Paul Thorn – project director of the Tuberculosis Survival Project, who was scheduled to speak at the Pacific Health Summit on Wednesday – was “notably absent” from events, the Seattle Time‘s blog, the “Business of Giving,” reports. Thorn said he was denied a U.S. visa because he is HIV-positive.

In a written statement, Thorn apologized for his absence and said that the U.S. government “actively discriminates against people” who are HIV-positive. According to Thorn, his application was denied despite interventions from Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Representative Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and appeals to the U.S. Consulate in London. Thorn called on the Obama administration to change the policy.

The article includes reaction to Thorn’s absence and details about the summit’s discussion on HIV/TB coinfection (Heim, “Business of Giving”/Seattle Times, 6/17). The summit brings together global health leaders from 25 countries to address drug-resistant TB and other topics (AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 6/17).