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UN leads bid to tackle tuberculosis drug shortage


An initiative just launched aims to tackle the shortage of anti-tuberculosis drugs in 19 countries around the world.

The UNITAID and Stop TB Partnership’s Global Drug Facility collaboration will mean the drugs are provided to countries identified as taking increased measures to fight tuberculosis (TB).

UNITAID, part of the World Health Organization, has committed £13.2m to the initiative, which will last until the end of 2008, while the Global Drug Facility will provide the treatments and direct technical assistance.

Dr Marcos Espinal, executive secretary of the intergovernmental Stop TB Partnership initiative, said: “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.

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“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, will also create 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.

UNITAID executive secretary Dr Jorge Bermúdez said: “This initiative will save lives – that is our first priority. But it will have another important benefit: to make the market more predictable, thereby stabilising and hopefully reducing the price of these life-saving drugs.”

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