22 OCTOBER 2014 AT 12:01 a.m. EDT
Mike Frick, Treatment Action Group +1 405.388.4490
New York, NEW YORK, OCTOBER 22, 2014—Worldwide, governments, foundations, and companies invested US$676.7 million in research to develop new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics against tuberculosis (TB) in 2013—barely one-third of the US$2 billion that experts estimate the world must spend each year to end the global TB epidemic—according to an analysis released today by Treatment Action Group (TAG). TAG’s ninth annual Report on Tuberculosis Research Funding Trends shows that the foundation of the TB research enterprise is shakier than ever, setting back efforts to fight a disease that in 2012 killed 1.3 million people and caused 8.6 million to fall sick.
While overall spending increased by US$37.9 million compared with 2012, private-sector funding for TB research has fallen sharply, making up less than 15 percent of total research spending.
“Pharmaceutical companies spent less than US$100 million on TB research in 2013—which is lower than what they did in 2009 at the peak of the economic crisis,” said Mark Harrington, executive director of TAG. “When companies pull out of TB research, promising compounds owned by these companies get stuck in early development. Thus, the pace of research falls behind the spread of drug-resistant TB.”
The growing severity and spread of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB)—a form of TB that is more difficult to diagnose and treat—has not persuaded the pharmaceutical sector to remain invested in TB research. Pharmaceutical company spending on TB research has fallen by one-third since its peak of US$145 million in 2011. Since 2012, three major pharmaceutical companies—Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Novartis—have left the TB research field entirely; currently, only three—Janssen, Otsuka, and Sanofi—have active research programs. The public sector now gives four times more money to TB research than private industry does, and philanthropic institutions give twice as much.
To eliminate TB as a public health threat, the world needs to spend US$9.8 billion on research from 2011 to 2015, according the Stop TB Partnership. With only two years remaining, the world has spent just US$1.99 billion on TB research and development (R&D) over this period, barely one-fifth of the goal. TAG has tracked global funding for TB R&D since 2005 and found funding gaps in every category of TB research—basic science, drugs, diagnostics, vaccines, and operational research—each year of reporting.
“Collapsing pharmaceutical investment in a disease of global concern such as TB is alarming,” said Colleen Daniels, TAG’s TB/HIV project director. “Public and charitable institutions have matched and exceeded investments made by pharmaceutical companies in their own products, but it hasn’t been enough to keep industry involved. The current R&D model is broken and is failing TB patients, who have had to wait decades for better diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines to fight TB.”
Globally, TB research relies on just a handful of funders, the majority of them public institutions in the United States and Europe that are fighting the budget-shrinking effects of fiscal austerity. Ninety percent of TB research funding in 2013 came from just 20 organizations, and the two largest donors—the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—together gave 45 percent of all money spent on TB R&D.
In May 2014, the World Health Assembly approved a resolution to reduce TB deaths by 95 percent and cut the number of new TB cases by 90 percent by 2035. “Achieving the World Health Assembly’s goal of a world free of TB by 2035 will require introducing new drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines to the TB response no later than 2025,” said Lucica Ditiu, executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership. “To live up to this promise, the world must triple the amount of money spent on TB research immediately.”
Download the 2014 Report on Tuberculosis Research Funding Trends: 2005–2013
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.