Investing in Tuberculosis
by Jason Zheng
Tuberculosis (TB) is contagious and airborne, it remains as
one of the 10 causes of death worldwide. The main cause of death is due to the
antimicrobial resistance and people with HIV. According to the World Health
Organization report in 2017, between the years of 2000-2016, 53 million lives
were spared, resulting a 22% drop. However, there is an estimate that more than
10 million new TB case worldwide. India, Indonesia, China, Philippines,
Pakistan, Nigeria, and South Africa accounted for 64% of cases.
Dr. Paul Farmer and the Co-founder of Partners In Health
(PIH), passionately shares his vision on reducing TB by promoting a
community-based care. This means that community health workers, nurses, and
other professionals would visit patients regularly to ensure that they are on
course with their TB (or any other disease) treatment. A community-based care
can last up to two years, or even more. However, this allows for the disease(s)
to be contained and quarantine properly by health officials.
As the world continue to make medical and technological
advancements, TB evolves into a drug-resistance infectious disease. In 2017,
US$ 9.2 billion of funds were directed to combat TB epidemic in low and
middle-income countries. The world currently invests US$ 6.9 billion for
patients who are currently diagnosed with TB, which is almost half of the
military expenses in building the new aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford.
This left a funding gap of US$ 2.3 billion.
However, for research and development, an additional US$ 1.2 billion is
required to modernize the development of new tools.
The drugs that are available to fight TB are also improving.
After over 40 years of developing and pioneering TB drugs, two drugs–Delamanid and Bedaquiline—were approved for use and made widely available in
2015, thanks to government incentives.
To ensure that we continue to pioneer new drugs to combat
TB, we all have to play a part. Big or small, it makes a difference. Drug
companies need to lower every treatment cost from thousands of dollars to
hundreds or less. This can be done and will still allow a fair share of profit.
As well, companies and organizations ranging from industry, academic
institutions, international donors, and nonprofits must take more action and
fund clinical trials that will help produce the best use of technology and
drugs to prevent and treat TB.
Governments must see through their public proclamation.
Nonprofits and development agencies must continue to support the development of
countries. TB is a transnational disease, similarly to Ebola and Zika. Without
investments in the health system, TB will spread until it reaches every single
one of us.