Programme launched to counter TB drug shortfalls

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GENEVA, Oct 8 (Reuters) The World Health Organisation (WHO) and an international initiative launched a programme today to provide anti-tuberculosis drugs to people in poor countries who are unable to cover their full medical needs.

The 26.8 million dollars programme will deliver drugs to around 750,000 people in 19 countries, covering their anti-tuberculosis drug needs for the rest of this year and 2008, the Stop TB Partnership, hosted by the WHO, and the UNITAID initiative said in a joint statement.

The initiative will provide drugs to countries expanding their TB control efforts and that have been promised support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria or another donor, but do not yet have the funds.

A six-month course of treatment for TB for someone of average weight costs 20 dollars.

TB and AIDS are the main health threats in Africa and are closely linked, with victims of one often vulnerable to the other.

Worldwide, 8.8 million new cases of TB and 1.6 million deaths from it occur each year. If left untreated, TB can develop into drug-resistant strains.

''This is the first line to prevent the creation of drug resistance,'' Marcos Espinal, executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership, told a news conference.

The project is restricted to anti-TB treatments suitable for people whose TB is not resistant to standard therapies. It will also allow the creation of a stockpile of anti-TB drugs.

The drugs are sourced from four generics manufacturers in India, said Robert Matiru, operations manager of the Stop TB Partnership's Global Drugs Facility.

They are Lupin , Cadila , Sandoz India and Svizera Europe, he said.

The project will provide first-line TB drugs to Bangladesh, Bosnia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Iraq, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tajikistan, Gambia, Togo and Uganda.

REUTERS PD BD1602

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