Stop TB Partnership

"SWIFT Response Project" Announced by Community of Global Drug Resistant-Tuberculosis Implementers


09 January 2015 - In response to recent reports showing both the unacceptably high morbidity, mortality and financial costs of drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) , a pioneering group of international DR-TB experts has created the SWIFT Response Project. SWIFT stands for Society Working on Implementation to Fight TB and the goal of the group is to rapidly develop implementation tools to ensure optimal use of new TB drugs in order to provide the best possible outcomes for patients and programs. These drugs include bedaquiline, delamanid, linezolid and clofazimine.

Another motivation for the founding of this group was a recent announcement by the Pharmaceutical Company Janssen and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that 30,000 doses of the newly approved TB drug bedaquiline will be made available to countries facing severe epidemics of DR-TB . The group hopes Janssen and other manufacturers of new and re-purposed TB drugs will find ways to make their products more widely available and pledges to be ready to help countries use these drugs in a successful fashion.

"This is a very exciting time in the treatment of DR-TB, where for the first time in almost 50 years, we have new drugs available to treat our patients," notes Dr. Jennifer Furin, a global DR-TB expert and one of the co-founders of the SWIFT project. "These new drugs, however, are meaningless if we cannot quickly move them into the field and into the regimens of patients who need them most. One of our goals in the SWIFT Response Project is to rapidly develop state-of-the-art implementation tools so that countries and programs can begin successfully using bedaquiline and other new and re-purposed drugs as soon as possible."

The first meeting of the SWIFT Response Project was held on December 19, 2014, and the group decided to focus on implementation tools in 4 broad areas: 1) diagnostics; 2) clinical management; 3) patient information and support; and 4) practical pharmacovigilance. The tools will be based on broader guidance issued by the World Health Organization on the use of new drugs for the treatment of DR-TB but will focus on field implementation. In addition to these tools, the SWIFT Response Project will also hold a series of free webinars beginning in early February, 2015, covering a range of topics related to the successful implementation of new and repurposed drugs.

The members of the SWIFT Response project all serve in a voluntary capacity and currently represent 34 country programs and projects that have successfully treated patients with bedaquiline and other new and repurposed drugs. They are renowned experts in successful implementation of these powerful tools. The group is open to anyone who wishes to join, with the only criteria for membership being a desire to improve the lives and health of people affected by DR-TB, no matter where they may live.

"In the past, the global TB community has been slow to respond to opportunities and challenges in treating drug-resistant disease. We now have an unprecedented chance to join forces and effectively respond to this public health crisis," notes Furin.

There are more than half a million new cases of drug-resistant TB that occur each year, and a majority of people with this disease are never diagnosed or treated for the disease. Among those who are treated, over half of them will not be cured. This situation leads to ongoing transmission of DR-TB and unless rapid and concerted action is taken, it is estimated that by 2050 DR-TB will be one of the top causes of death globally, surpassing even cancer.

For more information, please contact Dr. Jennifer Furin at jenniferfurin@gmail.com. More on the SWIFT Response Project can be found at www.swiftresponseproject.org