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The Global Drug Facility will run out of money by the end of this year, says Ian Smith, MD, spokesman for the World Health Organization’s STOP-TB division. The drug facility is designed to ensure a steady supply of drugs in countries where TB is endemic. Without that steady supply, even relatively strong TB control programs in developing countries can be rendered dysfunctional, because interruptions in drug supply engender patient relapse and drug resistance.
Canada, with a pledge of US $10 million, is the only country to have given any money at all. The drug facility has concluded agreements with 12 countries to provide anti-TB drugs for the next three years, says Smith. Another five countries are in the midst of negotiating their own agreements. A country Smith says he can’t name yet has promised to step into the breach and provide emergency funding for the next three years if other donations fail to materialize.
One hold-up is that some potential donors — the United States among them — are waiting to see whether the Global AIDS Fund (also intended to help victims of TB and malaria) will be able to direct some of its contributions to the drug facility, says Smith. Congress is expected to approve about $300 million for the Global AIDS Fund, an amount far below the $1 billion the WHO says is needed from America.
No matter where the money comes from, more must be found if the drug facility is to keep on functioning. "If we’re going to get anywhere with this thing, we need a huge amount more money," says Smith.
Putting money into the drug facility is a great buy, at $10 for a full year’s worth of drugs, adds Joanne Carter, legislative director for Results International, a grass-roots advocacy organization based in Washington, DC.
Only one person in four has access to the drug regimen recommended by the WHO for TB treatment. Lack of access to drugs has been one of the major constraints to countries seeking to expand their TB treatment programs.