The global pharmaceutical industry has only 22 compounds in development for treating tuberculosis (TB).
The global pharmaceutical industry has only 22 compounds in development for treating tuberculosis (TB), according to Pharmaprojects, a UK-based database company which tracks pharmaceutical R & D.
’This is a startlingly low figure for a disease with such a heavy global burden’, says Pharmaprojects, especially when compared with the R & D activity focused on developed world diseases. For instance, pharmaceutical companies are developing almost 400 new therapies for treating cancer, including 70 for lung cancer.
TB has always been a major health threat, with one third of the world’s population infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis and a TB-related death every 15 seconds, but the rise of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) is creating an even greater problem. This has led the World Health Organisation to warn recently that R & D into new TB drugs is ’urgently required’.
Money is the main factor impeding drug development. TB is primarily a disease associated with poverty, whether in the developing or developed world, and it is estimated that only 5 per cent of TB sufferers can afford treatment. The market for TB drugs is currently valued at only $450 million (?251m), which would make it difficult for pharmaceutical companies to recoup their R & D investment.
The way forward may be through private-public partnerships, such as the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development or the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation, in which pharmaceutical company expertise and public-sector funding come together.
Already the TB Alliance has 10 compounds in its pipeline, including one about to enter clinical trials, while Aeras recently received $82.9 million (?46m) from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.