Multi-drug resistant TB: How is Europe responding to the challenge?
Leading politicians, officials, researchers and civil society organisations convened in Brussels at the launch of European Voice‟s multi-drug resistant (MDR-TB) policy report in the lead up to World TB day, to discuss the rising incidence of MDR-TB, the need for more effective treatments, new vaccines and better diagnostics and what needs to done at a European level to tackle this preventable disease. The event was supported by Janssen and 10 other partnering organisations including the European Respiratory Society, the European Lung Foundation and TB Alliance. The full report can be accessed online here.
Europe accounts for a quarter of the global MDR-TB burden and five EU Member States (Romania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia) are among the 27 high burden MDR-TB countries1. With less than 10% of patients worldwide treated, this easily-transmitted disease borne from inadequate treatment and substandard adherence is on the rise in many parts of the world, and if unchecked will become deadly as strains become more resistant and transmission accelerates1.
Speaking at the European Voice event, Martin Seychell, Deputy Director General, DG SANCO at the European Commission explained that "the face of the enemy is changing so we need to change our tactics." He explained that TB is not just a health issue, but a problem affecting all facets of society - therefore a comprehensive elimination strategy is needed. Mr Seychell also highlighted that Europe is the only region in the world that can act together, and that political drive to collectively overcome the critical situation can empower Europe to make progress.
"EU regional political leadership is key to complement national efforts to fight TB" concurred Fanny Voitzwinkler, of Global Health Advocates, Coordinator of the TB Europe Coalition, who stated that "the current situation in Europe for TB is unacceptable...this is the only region with Africa that will not meet its millennium goals for tuberculosis in 2015". Both Mr Seychell and Ms. Voitzwinkler highlighted the importance of community outreach and the need to educate and drive awareness of MDR-TB to the most vulnerable populations.
European Voice‟s policy paper on MDR-TB launched at the event highlights the successes, failures and challenges of TB control, and goes on to further assess the role of the European Union and need for concrete tangible actions and collaboration to step up Europe‟s response to TB.
The need for new medicines and ones that treat patients adequately was also discussed at the event and is explored in depth in the report. Dr. Adrian Thomas, Vice President of Global Market Access, Global Commercial Strategy Operations, and Global Public Health at Janssen, explained at the event "Although Janssen have recently introduced a new treatment for MDR-TB, our goal is to ensure that this treatment is used appropriately so that its utility will be long-lived. Appropriate screening, diagnosis and patient adherence are critical components of a coordinated TB control strategy."