New Tuberculosis Drug Enters First Trial: The Good and Sad News
Thursday, February 19, 2015
The maiden human trial of a potential tuberculosis drug — the first in six years — has now commenced.
Known as TBA-354, the promising drug comes from a class of chemicals known to be effective against drug-sensitive and drug-resistant tuberculosis, deemed a major public health concern because it can derail progress made in TB treatment and care. The proportion of drug-resistant TB of the global TB numbers has stayed at the same level in recent years, but new cases rise by almost half a million annually, according to the World Health Organization.
Although considered a milestone, this news also hints at the sad state of research and development for TB drugs.
“TB, by and large, is a problem of the poorest of the poor,” Dr. Stephen Murray, senior medical officer at TB Alliance, which is spearheading the trial, told Devex. “As such, research for new TB treatments has long been dramatically underfunded.”
WHO pegs TB R&D financing needs at $2 billion per year. But in 2013, funding only amounted to $676.7 million — roughly a third of the requirement — according to the Treatment Action Group’s most recent report on TB research funding trends.
And that’s because more and more pharmaceutical companies are exiting the field. Most of the 2013 funding came from public donors and charitable foundations, most notably the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.