Global TB drug development efforts underfunded says WHO

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland
WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

Related tags Tuberculosis

Janssen-Cilag’s bedaquiline and Otsuka’s delamanid notwithstanding, the drug industry is not spending enough on the development of tuberculosis medicines according to the WHO.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) made the comment in its Global Tuberculosis Report earlier today, explaining that although disease mortality rates are falling as a result of treatment programmes more effort is needed.

Insufficient funding is hampering efforts to combat the global epidemic. An estimated US$ 8 billion is needed each year for a full response, but there is currently an annual shortfall of US$ 2 billion, which must be addressed​” the organisation said.

It added that: “The research and development pipeline has produced several new diagnostics and two new drugs to treat MDR-TB However, TB research and development is still severely underfunded​.”

Janssen’s bedaquiline – sold as Sirturo​ – was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2012, when it became the first new treatment cleared by the regulator in four decades.

Sirturo was approved to treat multidrug resistant forms of TB in South Africa earlier this week and has been available in Europe since March.

Similarly, Otsuka’s delamanid – which is marketed as Deltyba​ – has been available in Europe since April this year.

A WHO Spokesperson told that: "The new WHO Global TB Strategy endorsed by the World Health Assembly in May 2014 relies on three fundamental pillars to reach the targets of a 95% reduction of TB mortality by 2035 worldwide (compared to 2015 levels) and a decline in TB incidence to below 10/100,000 population, towards TB elimination.

"The third Pillar, entitled “Intensified research and innovation” is focusing on discovery, development and rapid uptake of new tools, interventions and strategies and research to optimize implementation and impact, and promote innovations. In this frame, WHO is promoting actions with key stakeholders working on the development of new TB control tools, including new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines, as well as donors, international and multilateral agencies, and civil society, with the view to obtain new tools that are essential for TB control. 

The WHO report can be accessed here​.

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