October 27, 2011

TAG releases report on global TB R&D investment trends

senior researcher
Treatment Action Group

Eleonora Jiménez–Levi is a senior researcher for the Treatment Action Group (TAG), a GHTC member, and wrote this blog post in conjunction with the release of a new report from TAG about funding for tuberculosis (TB) research and development (R&D).

TAG has released a new report in collaboration with the Stop TB Partnership, which finds that in 2010 the world invested just $617 million in TB R&D—less than one-third of the estimated $2 billion annual investment needed to eliminate TB as a public health threat by the year 2050.

The report, Tuberculosis Research and Development: 2011 Report on Tuberculosis Research Funding Trends, 2005-2010, tracks annual research spending across six TB R&D areas against funding targets set by the Global Plan to Stop TB 2011-2015. The report offers year-to-year data on the leading TB research funders and underscores the urgency of adequate and sustained funding.

Dr. Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership, emphasized this critical need for sufficient funding by saying “with current levels of funding it will be impossible to meet the research targets of the Global Plan to Stop TB 2011-2015. This is a completely unacceptable situation, because those targets are, I would dare to say, even modest. Where is the funding to push ahead research for a point-of-care diagnostic test accessible to all, new drugs for a shorter treatment time and a fully effective vaccine?”

For the sixth consecutive year, R&D for TB treatment was the most well-funded research area—growing by 19% from $192 million to $227 million. However, this was just 31% of the $740 million annual Global Plan target for TB treatment research. The report also documents significant funding declines in basic science and vaccines research, which dropped 27% and 29%, to $126.6 million and $78 million, respectively. TB diagnostics accounted for 7% of global total spending with $44.6 million—a 15% increase from 2009. The infrastructure/unspecified category grew 46% to $83 million and operational research rose 17% to $58.1 million in 2010. Measuring these totals against the Global Plan targets, the only category to come close to its annual target was operational research and the farthest one was TB diagnostics.

According to the World Health Organization, there were 8.8 million people newly diagnosed with TB and 1.45 million deaths in 2010, including 1.1 million new cases and .35 million deaths among people with HIV. Resources to develop new tools to prevent, detect, and treat TB have never been more urgent. “Recent progress in TB research is clearly threatened by stagnating funding,” said TAG’s executive director, Mark Harrington. “After several years of increasing investment, TB research is finally making headway with two new promising drugs for the treatment of multi-drug resistant TB and a new drug combination active against both drug sensitive and drug resistant TB. Cutting investments now will cost lives in the future.”