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Why We Can No Longer Afford Inaction on TB
March 24, 2015, Washington, DC—When doctors and scientists raise the alarm about microbes current medicines can’t cure, many people imagine terrifying new diseases. But new data released for World Tuberculosis (TB) Day show that the poster child for antibiotic resistance isn‘t a mysterious superbug — but an ancient disease we know all too well.
As the only major drug-resistant infection spread through the air, new projections published today by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global TB show that multi drug-resistant (MDR-TB) could account for one in four deaths from drug-resistant infections by 2050. The estimations were originally produced for the independent Review on Anti-Microbial Resistance, launched by the UK Prime Minister David Cameron and chaired by economist Jim O’Neill.
“The growing wave of drug-resistant infections threatening global public health and grabbing headlines around the world is being driven by TB, and by our failure to fully invest in defeating the disease while we still can,” said Hannah Bowen, ACTION Director. “This is the first time the future impact of drug-resistant TB has been estimated, projecting just how deadly and costly the rise of drug-resistant TB could become if decisive action isn’t taken now.”
Projections show that if left unchecked, by 2050:
Although TB is preventable and treatable, the disease still kills 1.5 million people every year. About 5% of global TB cases are currently drug resistant, but this proportion could grow quickly unless we rapidly scale up effective diagnosis and treatment to reach those with MDR-TB. Currently, at least 39,000 people diagnosed with MDR-TB are on waiting lists to receive life-saving drugs, and only about half of patients successfully complete treatment.
“These catastrophic consequences are intolerable, but not inevitable,“ said Aaron Oxley, Director of RESULTS UK., ACTION’s UK partner. “For too many years, people suffering from TB have had to take toxic, expensive drugs developed over 50 years ago. We haven’t done enough to make treatment easier, or to address the growing threat of drug resistance. Increased investment in TB research and programming can ensure more people are cured safely and quickly. We can and we must avoid the devastating human and economic outcomes forecast by this study.“
ACTION recommendations to curb drug resistance and accelerate the fight against TB:
“This World TB Day, the potential catastrophic cost of inaction on TB should serve as a call to action. We must not be paralyzed by frightening projections, but rather emboldened to do much more to tackle this disease and reach all people who need treatment,“ said Joanne Carter, Executive Director of RESULTS Educational Fund, ACTION’s U.S. partner. “Policymakers should see this World TB Day report as an urgent warning to recommit to ending today’s TB epidemic before it becomes 2050’s much more deadly drug-resistant TB epidemic."
ACTION is a global partnership of 10 advocacy organizations in donor and high burden countries working to influence policy and mobilize resources to fight diseases of poverty and improve equitable access to health services. ACTION’s priorities are ending the TB epidemic, and ending preventable child deaths.
About RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund
RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund are sister organizations that, together, are a leading force in ending poverty in the United States and around the world. We create long-term solutions to poverty by supporting programs that address its root causes — lack of access to health, education, or opportunity to move up the economic ladder. We do this by empowering ordinary people to become extraordinary voices for the end of poverty in their communities, the media, and the halls of government. The collective voices of these passionate grassroots activists, coordinated with grass-tops efforts driven by our staff, leverage millions of dollars for programs and improved policies that give low-income people the tools they need to move out of poverty.
 The economic and mortality modelling, which was calculated by auditors KPMG, modelled a scenario that doubled current infection rates for TB and an absolute increase in current rates of resistance by 40 percent. For more information on methodology see: https://www.kpmg.com/UK/en/IssuesAndInsights/ArticlesPublications/Documents/PDF/Issues%20and%20Insights/amr-report-final.pdf