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New initiative to address TB drug shortage

Stop TB Partnership and UNITAID to supply drugs to 19 countries

The Stop TB Partnership's Global Drug Facility and UNITAID today announced a collaboration with 19 countries to address life-threatening shortages of anti-tuberculosis drugs. The initiative will provide these drugs to countries that are scaling up their TB control efforts and that have confirmed future support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria or another donor but are not able to cover their full needs at present.

"This collaboration will deliver drugs to more than three-quarters of a million people who otherwise might not get treatment or could have their treatment interrupted because no drugs were available," said Dr Marcos Espinal, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership. "Getting anti-TB drugs to people who need them and making sure they complete their treatment is the best weapon we have for preventing drug-resistant TB."

The project, which is restricted to anti-TB treatments suitable for people whose form of TB is not resistant to standard therapies, also provides for the establishment of a stockpile of anti-TB drugs that will be made available to countries facing shortages because of humanitarian emergencies or inadequate capacity for planning orders.

"This initiative will save lives -- that is our first priority. But it will have another important benefit: to make the market more predictable, thereby stabilizing and hopefully reducing the price of these life-saving drugs," said Dr Jorge Bermudez, Executive Secretary of UNITAID.

Stabilizing the drugs market

Dr Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, praised the Global Drug Facility and UNITAID for their collaboration. "The Global Drug Facility and UNITAID are providing vital stopgap coverage in countries facing shortages of anti-TB drugs, as they take steps to improve the management of their TB programmes and ensure a continuous supply of these life-saving treatments," he said.

The Global Drug Facility will provide anti-TB drugs and supplies and direct technical assistance to the 19 countries. UNITAID has committed US$ 26.8 million to the initiative, which will cover countries for the remainder of 2007 and all of 2008.

"We at WHO welcome the collaboration between UNITAID, the Global Drug Facility and Member States, which should inspire others to step up the fight against a disease that still causes 8.8 million new illnesses and 1.6 million deaths a year," said Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of the WHO Stop TB Department.

First-line TB drugs for countries in need

The joint Global Drug Facility/UNITAID project will provide first-line TB drugs to the following countries: Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Iraq, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tajikistan, The Gambia, Togo and Uganda.

The Global Drug Facility, the drug supply arm of the Stop TB Partnership, provides countries with the drugs and supplies needed to diagnose and treat adults and children with both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant TB. Along with drug supply it provides direct technical assistance on drug management. The Stop TB Partnership, which is hosted by WHO in Geneva, Switzerland, is a network of more then 500 international organizations, countries, patient groups, donors from the public and private sectors, and nongovernmental and governmental organizations that are working together to eliminate TB.

The UNITAID initiative was launched in September 2006 by Brazil, Chile, France, Norway and the United Kingdom. It aims to contribute to the scale-up of treatment in developing countries for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis by reducing price of quality drugs and diagnostics and to accelerate the pace at which they are made available by mobilizing innovative financing mechanisms.

For further information, please contact:

Judith Mandelbaum-Schmid
Communications Officer, Stop TB Partnership
Tel.: +41 22 791 2967
Mobile: +41 79 254 6835
E-mail: schmidj@who.int

Audrey Quehen
Communications Officer, UNITAID
Tel.: +41 22 791 1437
E-mail: quehena@who.int

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