Global Drug Facility and partners will scale up MDR-TB treatment with UNITAID funding

26 August 2010 - Geneva - People with multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) in India will have improved access to treatment thanks to a joint initiative between the Stop TB Partnership's Global Drug Facility (GDF), the Green Light Committee (GLC), The Global Fund against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and UNITAID. The initiative is a new phase of the MDR-TB Scale Up Initiative, which seeks to increase the number of patients receiving second-line drugs and have a positive impact on market dynamics for these drugs, through improvement in price, quality and delivery.

India, which will benefit from the expansion of the initiative, has the largest TB burden of any country in the world, with one-fifth of all cases. TB is one of the leading causes of mortality in India, and kills nearly 1,000 people each day. India also has more MDR-TB cases than any country in the world.

A first UNITAID grant of US $20.8 million was approved in 2007 and increased to US$ 37.6 million in July, 2009. Its objective has been to boost the supply of drugs needed to treat MDR-TB in 17 countries, with the additional goal of achieving price reductions of between 5 - 25% for second-line anti-TB drugs subject to a sufficient number of quality assured sources being available. All the countries receiving this assistance have Green Light Committee-approved MDR-TB treatment programmes in place.

The budget increase of US$ 16,794,000 will cover 9,850 patient treatments for India. With this addition, the number of patients accessing second-line drugs through the initiative will increase to a total of 15,606 in 18 countries. This surge in demand is likely to have a favourable impact on market forces.

UNITAID, GLC, The Global Fund and GDF will collaborate to implement the initiative. UNITAID will provide funding and financial review. The Green Light Committee will have an advisory role including review and selection, monitoring and evaluation, and co-ordinating World Health Organization (WHO) technical assistance. The Global Drug Facility will manage procurement and delivery of treatment, working to reduce prices and increase availability of quality-assured MDR-TB drugs.

The initiative supports the global commitment to tackle MDR-TB, agreed at the Ministerial Meeting of High M/XDR-TB Burden Countries held in Beijing, China in April, 2009. Last year the highest ever number of MDR-TB cases were reported to WHO. Drug resistant TB has higher mortality and is more difficult and expensive to treat, and there are nearly half a million new cases emerging annually.