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At Europe's Doorstep, Fierce War Against TB


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In Western Europe, drug-resistant strains of TB are starting to make a wider appearance. Last year, Britain reported 421 cases of drug-resistant TB, a 26% jump from the previous year. Most Western Europe cases can be traced to the TB-wracked eastern half of the continent. (In contrast, there were 124 case of drug-resistant TB in the U.S. in 2011.)


Nearby nations, including Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro and hard-hit areas in Russia, have sought Estonian advice in their own fight against the disease—and they need it. The 15 countries of the former Soviet Union, as well as Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, together harbor more than 85% of TB cases, and 96% of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, or MDR-TB, found in Europe, according to the World Health Organization.


"Eastern Europe is in a disastrous situation with MDR-TB and it risks compromising anything you can do" globally, said Mario Raviglione, who has led the WHO's TB program for nearly a decade.


At least 30% of all new TB cases in Eastern Europe are now resistant to key front-line drugs. The equivalent official rate is 6% for China and 2.1% for India, though the latter is probably an underestimate. (In absolute numbers, India and China have far more multidrug-resistant cases because of their larger populations.)

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Johnson & Johnson set to ship TB medicine



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The move marks an important breakthrough against one of the world’s leading killer infectious diseases, which continues to pose a threat in developed as well as developing countries with nearly 9m new cases and 1.4m deaths each year.


The drug, which is called bedaquiline and will be sold under the brand name Sirturo, has been approved for use with the US for “salvage” treatment of multi-drug resistant TB in combination with other medicines.


Clinical trials showed it could both cure and reduce the period during which patients are infectious and need to be held in isolation in hospitals.


That could help provide a financial boost for Johnson & Johnson, which was granted a rare “priority review voucher” by US regulators as an incentive for developing a tropical disease treatment. This allows it to seek accelerated approval of any other of its experimental medicines, potentially adding six months to the life of the patent.


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