Taking the Fight to MDR-TB

photo-evan-lee-thumb-300x340-486Today's guest blog comes from Lilly's vice president of Global Health Programs, Evan Lee, M.D.

“Americans can no longer afford to be indifferent to the rise of drug-resistant tuberculosis.”

That’s the conclusion of an excellent op-ed in the International New York Times this week, penned by a journalist who recently visited Indonesia to investigate the impact of this disease. The country registers about 7,000 new cases of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) each year.

Even when the right medicine is made available free of charge, many don’t complete the recommended treatment. For some, the cost of physically reporting to a clinic to each day as required is prohibitive. For others, the side effects are too intense. And too many simply don’t understand the nature of the disease -- and the urgency of completing a full treatment course.

As one local health leader, put it, “This is a social disease.” Having the right tools is not enough.  And the New York Times piece notes that, while The Global Fund has helped purchase them, other actors still need to step up.  This is why our company is still involved, through our MDR-TB Partnership.

Most importantly, the piece reminds us that MDR-TB is a growing threat -- and that the developed world can’t turn a blind eye simply because we don’t see the effects on our doorstep each day. While the author focuses on the U.S., this should be a wake-up for Europe as well. Lest we forget, Eastern Europe is among the worst hotspots worldwide for MDR-TB according to the World Health Organization.

In other words, if we fail to take the fight to MDR-TB, it will bring the fight to us.

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