Stopping MDR-TB’s Rise in Europe

photo-evan-lee-thumb-300x340-4861Today's guest blog comes from Lilly's Vice President of Global Health Programs and Access, Dr. Evan Lee.

Eastern Europe is now the hardest hit region by deadly multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), according to the latest figures reported by the World Health Organization (WHO). The 1st Eastern Partnership Ministerial Conference on Tuberculosis and Multidrug Resistant Tuberculosis, which begins today in Riga, provides a key opportunity to address this gathering storm.

More must be done to identify and diagnose the growing number of persons that are infected with MDR-TB. A mere half of MDR-TB cases in the region are even found. Among those diagnosed, only half are successfully cured. The WHO’s new global End TB Strategy calls for the scaling up of access to safe, rational and efficient new TB drugs.

Increasing access to quality care is precisely the aim of Lilly’s MDR-TB Partnership (video). This long-standing collaboration involves transferring MDR-TB medicines technology, piloting new models of TB care for at-risk populations, and working with other companies and organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to find potential candidates for the next generation of TB medicines. While global in scope, our partnership’s work is particularly relevant to addressing MDR-TB in Eastern Europe.

Through the decade-long MDR-TB technology transfer, we’ve worked to help establish a sustainable, global supply of quality-assured MDR-TB medicines. Working with manufacturing partners in Greece and Russia among other countries, we donated the manufacturing technology and know-how for two Lilly medicines active against MDR-TB. Another achievement was to move manufacturing closer to where MDR-TB medicines are needed the most.

Beyond technology transfer, our partnership works with governments and NGOs to develop MDR-TB prevention and care models, provide MDR-TB diagnostics and treatment training for doctors, nurses, and social workers, collaborate with journalists to increase public awareness, and, particularly important for Eastern Europe, focus efforts on reaching key affected populations. In collaboration with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), we partner with national Red Cross Societies in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Kazakhstan to support individuals along their treatment journey, and in Russia with migrant populations.

As ministers gather in Riga to address TB in Europe, I hope they will leverage ongoing work to develop new and scalable solutions for the region from the Lilly MDR-TB Partnership and others.