RESULTS UK is deeply concerned today at the release of the 2014 World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Tuberculosis (TB) Report that reports several hundred thousand more cases of TB and deaths than was previously thought to be the case. We encourage the UK Government to increase their political and financial commitment to fight this disease in Europe and worldwide.
With 9 million new cases of TB and 1.5 million deaths from the disease in 2013, the new data reveals that the global threat of TB is greater than previously thought. Alarmingly, it is now estimated that TB deaths in the WHO African Region for 2013 are 44% higher than the previously published estimate for 2012,
RESULTS’ Executive Director Aaron Oxley said: “When it comes to TB it is a case of the more we look the more we find. With new health emergencies like Ebola rightly grabbing headlines, tuberculosis has been a slow burning public health emergency for decades. It is clear from this latest data that governments worldwide, including the UK, need to bring urgency and renewed purpose to dramatically increase funding and resources to control TB and save millions of lives”.
These resources really are necessary. It is estimated that there is at least a $US2 billion annual gap in funding for TB globally. By filling this financing gap fundamental challenges, such as infection control in healthcare settings or laboratory capacity, that act as major barriers to effective TB care and control could be addressed.
Alarmingly, the WHO report highlights that multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) continues to represent a major global threat. Almost half a million people were estimated to have MDR-TB in 2013, although only 136,000 received official diagnosis. Of those who did receive care for MDR-TB less than half successfully complete their treatment. These figures dramatically illustrate the serious need for increased investments into research and development (R&D) for new TB treatments. Currently, a course of treatment for MDR-TB can last over one and a half years and the treatment is often accompanied by horrific side effects. Adequate investment into R&D for TB could help save many more lives.
Tuberculosis and drug-resistant forms of the disease are a worldwide problem. RESULTS UK is especially concerned to learn that the European Region has the highest burden of MDR-TB worldwide being home to 15 of the 27 high MDR-TB burden countries. Moreover, the treatment success rate in the European Region remains lower than that of other WHO regions.
Coordinator of the TB Europe Coalition, Fanny Voitzwinkler said: “It is deeply shocking that in one of the richer parts of the world, many countries are still struggling to contain MDR-TB. The European Union and Member states must immediately step up their political response to this alarming tragedy before it spirals completely out of control”.
RESULTS UK is calling on the UK Government, as a historic leader in global health, to ensure that it provides adequate financing and resources to address this global public health emergency. It is also paramount that the UK uses its leadership position to encourage other countries to do the same.