The Race Against Drug Resistance

TDR news item
24 June 2010

A new report from the Center for Global Development says there is a need for urgent action to tackle the growing crisis of drug resistance.

The ability to cure a wide range of serious and common diseases is under threat from drug resistance. Resistance is inevitable, but careless practices in drug supply and use are hastening it unnecessarily. Without an immediate global effort to safeguard lasting treatment effectiveness, drug resistance will quickly become a widespread threat, claiming lives, raising the cost of curing patients, and making future generations increasingly vulnerable to deadly diseases that were easily cured in the past.

Already, drug resistance has slowed gains against the fatal ravages of childhood dysentery and pneumonia, drastically increased the costs of fighting tuberculosis and malaria, and imperiled efforts to effectively treat people living with HIV/AIDS. Millions of children die annually from drug resistant disease strains and since 2006 donors have spent more than $1.5 billion on advanced drugs to treat resistant diseases. Unless action is taken, the stage is set for both the death toll and the dollar cost to rise.

A new report and accompanying film from the Center for Global Development’s Drug Resistance Working Group says that drug resistance testing and surveillance capabilities are inadequate; weak points in the supply chain and inappropriate dispensing facilities help drug resistance; drug regulation is weak and uncertain.

The Race Against Drug Resistance says there is no simple solution to solve the crisis but there are achievable steps to slow its spread. It says the World Health Organization should play a leading role.

The report urges pharmaceutical companies, governments, donors, global health institutions, health providers, and patients to collectively and immediately tackle this global health threat by implementing four key recommendations:

  • Collect and share drug resistance information across disease networks.
  • Secure the drug supply chain to ensure quality products and practices.
  • Strengthen national drug regulatory authorities in developing countries.
  • Catalyse research and innovation to speed the development of resistance-fighting technologies.

The report was produced by a working group set up in 2007 and comprising representatives of governments, foundations, charities, health institutions, the pharmaceutical industry and academia to develop concrete, achievable steps that could make a difference.

Dr Paul Nunn, coordinator TB Operations and Coordination at WHO's Stop TB department was a member of the working group, as was TDR scientist Dr Andrew Ramsay, who provided guidance on laboratories and diagnostics and their roles in detecting and preventing resistance. TDR convened a seminar about the draft report at WHO in January.

The working group was chaired by Dr Rachel Nugent, deputy director of global health at the Center for Global Development, which is an independent, non-profit policy research organization dedicated to reducing global poverty and inequality and to making globalization work for the poor."

TDR contact:

Dr Andrew Ramsay
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