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NOVEMBER 30, 2015, AT 12:01 a.m. South Africa Standard Time/
NOVEMBER 29, 2015, AT 11:00 p.m. CET, 5:00 p.m. EST

Mike Frick, Treatment Action Group, +1.347.691.6372

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA, NOVEMBER 30, 2015—Worldwide funding for tuberculosis (TB) research fell $1.3 billion short of global targets in 2014, according to a report released today by Treatment Action Group (TAG). Total funding of US$674,036,492 in 2014 amounted to barely one-third of the US$2 billion experts estimate the world must spend on TB research and development (R&D) each year to eliminate TB. Alarmingly, funding for TB drug research fell by US$25 million compared with 2013. Overall, funding for TB R&D fell by US$12 million.

TAG has conducted a global survey on funding for TB R&D each year since 2005; this year’s report describes trends for 10 consecutive years of data. Modest gains in TB R&D funding observed from 2005 to 2009 have stagnated in the five years since then. Total funding for TB R&D has never exceeded US$700 million per year.

“Chronic underfunding made the last decade of TB research one of missed targets,” said Mark Harrington, executive director of TAG. “The global community has created plans to end the TB epidemic in the next 20 years, but we are beginning the next decade in a deep deficit. Anything short of a massive and sustained infusion of money into TB research will jeopardize our chances of meeting global goals.”

The World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) End TB Strategy has called for achieving a world free of TB by 2035, an aspiration reaffirmed by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. To eliminate TB, new technologies to improve TB prevention, detection, and treatment must be developed and introduced by 2025. Yet TAG’s analysis uncovered funding shortfalls in every category of TB research in 2014, leaving scientists to wait for the money they need to put good ideas to the test. During this wait, patients and their caregivers will have to face TB without the new diagnostic tests, drugs, and vaccines needed to end TB.

The need for better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat TB has never been greater. TB is now the leading cause of death from an infectious disease, responsible for more deaths each year than AIDS. In 2014, 400,000 people newly developed drug-resistant TB (DR-TB)—a form of TB that is more difficult to diagnose and treat.

“We cannot ask scientists to confront a global epidemic of this size and intensity with flatlined or falling resources,” said Mark Harrington. “TB science is in a pivotal place. We have good ideas and know what questions we need to answer. The main things missing from TB research are money and political leadership and commitment.”

Sixty-two percent of money spent on TB research worldwide comes from public institutions. Pharmaceutical industry spending on TB R&D dipped below US$100 million in 2014. An exodus of pharmaceutical companies from TB research since 2012 has left the field dependent on public and philanthropic organizations for support. The United States spends more on TB R&D than every other nation in the world combined—US$247 million in 2014. The government of Singapore spends more on TB research measured as a percentage of its gross domestic product (GDP) than other countries. Countries where the burden of TB is heaviest barely rank in comparison even though many of them have large GDPs.

“We won’t eliminate TB unless we accelerate R&D. The financial push needs to come from country governments at all income levels, and the BRICS countries must lead,” said Lucica Ditiu, executive director of the Stop TB Partnership. The BRICS countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—accounted for 46% of the world’s new TB cases and 40% of TB-related deaths in 2014, but only 3.6% of public funding for TB R&D.

“TB kills more people than any other disease in South Africa,” said Anele Yawa, general secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign, a South African HIV and TB activist organization. “It is high time developing countries start spending much more money on finding better treatments for this disease that is killing so many of our people. South Africa should lead the way by tripling its funding for TB research.”


Download the 2015 Report on Tuberculosis Research Funding Trends, 2005­–2014

About TAG: Treatment Action Group is an independent AIDS research and policy think tank fighting for better treatment, a vaccine, and a cure for AIDS and its two major coinfections, TB and hepatitis C. We are science-based treatment activists working to expand and accelerate vital research and effective community engagement with research and policy institutions.

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