BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Funding for tuberculosis research fell $1.3 billion short of global targets last year, threatening worldwide goals to eliminate the disease between 2030 and 2035, researchers said on Monday.
The Treatment Action Group (TAG), an independent think tank, said the $674 million of total funding in 2014 amounted to just a third of the $2 billion experts say is needed per year for research and development to rid the world of TB.
The need for better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat TB has never been greater as it is now the leading cause of death from an infectious disease, responsible for more deaths per year than AIDS, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data.
“Anything short of a massive and sustained infusion of money into TB research will jeopardize our chances of meeting global goals,” Mark Harrington, executive director of TAG, said in a statement.
TB death rates have dropped 47 percent since 1990 but the highly infectious, air-borne disease still kills 4,000 people every day.
Progress is threatened by the emergence of drug-resistant strains which are outpacing the development of new drugs and are hard to diagnose and treat.
In 2014, 480,000 people developed multidrug-resistant TB, according to WHO data.
The WHO has called for achieving a world free of TB by 2035, an aspiration reaffirmed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, agreed by world leaders last September, which include a target to end TB by 2030.
Modest gains in TB research and development funding from 2005 to 2009 have stagnated in the five years since then, according to TAG’s research.
An exodus of pharmaceutical companies from TB research since 2012 has left the field dependent on public and philanthropic organisations for support, TAG said.
TAG said it is particularly alarming that funding for TB drug research fell by $25 million in 2014 from a year ago.
“We won’t eliminate TB unless we accelerate research and development,” said Lucica Ditiu, executive director of the Stop TB Partnership.
Ditiu urged the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – to lead a financial push for research and development.
They accounted for 46 percent of the world’s new TB cases and 40 percent of TB-related deaths in 2014, but for only 3.6 percent of public funding, according to TAG.
(Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit http://www.trust.org to see more stories)