15 November 2001
LIFE-SAVING TB DRUGS ARRIVE IN DPR KOREA DURING WHO DIRECTOR-GENERAL'S VISIT
BEIJING – The World Health Organization (WHO) today confirmed the first shipment of life-saving tuberculosis (TB) medicines to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea this week. The drugs will make it possible to treat nearly 33,000 people suffering from TB in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Until now, less than a third of those suffering from the disease had access to adequate treatment.
The supply of TB drugs is made available through the Global TB Drug Facility (GDF), part of the Stop TB partnership in WHO. In addition to DPR Korea, 11 other countries will receive support through the GDF. Launched in March this year, GDF is a global purchasing and distribution mechanism to expand access to high-quality TB drugs.
DPR Korea is one of 22 "high burden" countries that account for 80% of the global TB burden. The high incidence of TB in DPR Korea is due in part to past natural disasters, which have created the types of living conditions that fuel TB, and a deteriorating socio-economic environment that makes purchase of medicines a challenge. TB drug supplies were seriously interrupted in the late 1990s. TB has been identified as a top health priority by the government. DPR Korea’s National TB Control Programme has recently expanded the directly supervised treatment for TB (known as DOTS) across the country.
"The key to successful TB control is broader and better use of TB medicines to ensure that all TB sufferers in all countries have uninterrupted access to effective treatment," said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO. "Partnership mechanisms like Stop TB’s Global TB Drug Facility provide free drugs for people in the poorest countries and emergency supplies to assist countries facing drug shortages."
Drugs supplied through the GDF will help secure an uninterrupted supply of high-quality drugs for DOTS expansion. DPR Korea has now expanded the DOTS programme to cover more than one third of the country, and will continue to expand rapidly, so that more than half of the country will be covered by the end of 2001. DOTS is the internationally recommended strategy for controlling and treating TB. DOTS does not require hospitalization or isolation. TB patients can remain in their homes and return to work in a few weeks after starting the treatment.
Delegates at the first Stop TB Partnership Forum, which included over 200 participants from 18 "high-burden TB" countries, 9 developed countries, 9 multilateral partners, and 60 other organizations, recently gathered in Washington and made a commitment to meet TB control targets by 2005. These targets are defined as 70% detection of people with infectious TB cases and 85% cure rates of those new cases detected.
If DPR Korea continues to expand effectively, it should reach global targets for TB control within the next two to three years. "Aggressive implementation and expansion of DOTS on a world-wide basis is vitally important if we are going to meet the 2005 targets. On current trends, these targets will not be reached until at least 2013," said Dr David Heymann, WHO Executive Director for Communicable Diseases.
Since 1998, the WHO/South East Asian Regional Office has provided intensive technical and logistics support for TB control in DPR Korea, including drugs, microscopes, laboratory reagents, consultations by experts on TB, and high quality training in DOTS. DPR Korea completed its 5-year DOTS expansion plan in October of this year.
Every year, TB claims nearly 2 million lives world-wide. However, TB can be cured, if properly treated with DOTS. Stop TB’s GDF provides the mechanism for effective delivery of quality TB drugs.
For more information, please contact the following individuals: Ms Jeannette Sanchez, Stop TB Partnership Secretariat, Geneva. Telephone (+41 22) 791 1278. Email:email@example.com; Mr Iain Simpson, Communications Officer, CDS, Geneva. Telephone (+41 22) 791-3215. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Mr Gregory Hartl, WHO Spokesperson, WHO, Geneva. Telephone (+41 22) 791 4458; Fax (+41 22) 791 4858; Email: email@example.com. All WHO Press Releases, Fact Sheets and Features as well as other information on this subject can be obtained on Internet on the WHO home page http://www.who.int/