Historic opportunity to tackle drug-resistant tuberculosis could be missed, MSF warns

19 March 2013 - Geneva - Efforts to treat people for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and find new drugs to treat the disease must be significantly increased, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said in a press release issued in Geneva today. Unless these actions are taken, MDR-TB rates will continue to increase worldwide and a historic opportunity to increase the number of people cured will have been squandered, the medical humanitarian organization warned.

MSF says that it is witnessing unprecedented numbers of people with MDR-TB around the world, with drug resistance found not only among patients who have previously failed TB treatment but also in patients newly diagnosed with TB.

Two new TB drugs - bedaquiline and delamanid - have recently been approved or are about to be approved. However research is urgently needed, says MSF, to determine the best way to use these new drugs so that treatment can be made shorter and more effective, and rolled out to treat people with MDR-TB.

"We have been waiting for half a century for new drugs that are effective against tuberculosis. Must we wait another fifty years to seize this historic opportunity to improve and roll out treatment for drug-resistant TB?" said Dr. Erkin Chinasylova, TB doctor for MSF in Swaziland. "Getting better treatment is beyond urgent, but we are not seeing anything like the level of prioritisation required to make this a reality."

In addition to the press release, a group of MSF medical staff and people currently on MDR-TB treatment have issued a public manifesto in which they call for universal access to MDR-TB diagnosis and treatment and more financial support for TB treatment and research, among other demands.