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Statement from TAG’s TB Project on Today’s WHO Global TB Report

Contact: Mike Frick, mike.frick@treatmentactiongroup.org

October 14, 2021 — Today’s Global TB Report from WHO confirms our worst expectations for how COVID-19 has set back the global TB response. The pandemic has reversed an entire generation of progress. The first year-on-year increase in TB deaths since 2005 is devastating. We are dismayed to see that the world is not on track to meet any target set at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB in 2018. When the UN convenes its next high-level meeting on TB in 2023 heads of state and government must attend. And in the meantime, we need urgent action in every area of TB diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

  1. Diagnose TB: TB diagnoses fell from 7.1 million (out of an estimated 10 million people who developed TB) in 2019 to 5.8 million in 2020. An already egregious diagnostic gap is now even worse with only 58% of people with TB receiving a diagnosis last year. Access to affordable molecular diagnostics closer to the point of care is necessary to close the TB diagnostic gap. TAG calls on Cepheid to reverse its decision to cancel the commercialization of the point-of-care GeneXpert Omni machine and to lower the price of Xpert tests to $5.00. We further call on governments and donors to break Cepheid’s monopoly by scaling-up other rapid molecular testing platforms.
  2. Treat TB: Drug-resistant TB treatment starts fell by 22% from 201,997 people in 2019 to 157,903 in 2020 (out of an estimated 500,000 people who newly develop drug-resistant TB each year). TAG calls on all countries to urgently ensure equitable access to all-oral regimens for treating drug-resistant TB by taking all actions necessary to make new TB drugs affordable and available, including overcoming patent barriers.
  3. Prevent TB: 21% fewer people started TB preventive treatment in 2020 compared to 2019 (3.6 million in 2019 compared to 2.8 million in 2020). In the absence of safe and effective new TB vaccines, preventive therapy remains the best way to keep families and communities safe from TB. TAG calls on governments to scale-up access to short-course TB preventive treatment regimens such as 3HP and 1HP and on manufacturers to introduce affordable, patient-friendly formulations of rifapentine for adults and children without delay.

–TAG TB Project

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