World TB Day 2013: adequate treatment is essential!

World Tuberculosis Day 2013: Adequate treatment is essential!

On the occasion of Dr Robert Koch's announcement of his discovery of the cause of tuberculosis, 24 March 1882, the world commemorates the World Tuberculosis Day each year to raise awareness of the problem of TB and measures to address them. World TB Day 2013 is focusing on adequacy of TB treatment.

Adequate TB treatment will avert development of the drug-resistant forms of the disease (multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB)), which are growing into a public health emergency. Some 78 000 individuals are estimated to fall sick with M/XDR-TB yearly in the European Region, where there are over half of the world’s countries with the highest percentage of M/XDR-TB cases. In the EU/EEA, M/XDR-TB is decreasing slightly but continues to be prevalent in TB patients especially in the three Baltic countries.

Fewer than 50% of patients with detected MDR-TB are successfully treated. Treatment for M/XDR-TB patients is much longer, is hundreds of times more costly and has more frequent and severe side effects than treatment of regular TB. One untreated TB or M/XDR-TB person can infect 10–15 other people yearly and 10% of these will develop the disease in their lifetime.

The current portfolio of TB drugs, diagnostics and vaccines is inadequate to treat TB and reach the elimination target globally by 2050. Few new drugs are in the pipeline with the potential to scale up the fight against TB. These drugs need to provide simpler, easily tolerated and less expensive therapies and reduce the treatment time from the current 6 months–2 years to less than two weeks.