TB Alliance Submission
International Development Committee: Humanitarian crises monitoring current situation and the immediate risks and threats
April 16, 2020
Introduction to TB Alliance
TB Alliance is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the discovery, development and delivery of better, faster-acting and affordable tuberculosis drugs that are available to those who need them. We envision a world where no one dies of tuberculosis. Since our inception in 2000, TB Alliance has led the global search for and development of new TB regimens, catalysing the field and convening cross-sector partnerships to forge the progress that is urgently needed for better TB treatments. As a product development partnership (PDP), TB Alliance is uniquely positioned to leverage a global network of public and private partners to most efficiently advance TB drug development. A PDP builds partnerships between the public, private, academic, and philanthropic sectors to drive the development of new products for underserved markets and ensure effective pharmaceutical development is coupled with worldwide access, affordability and adoptability criteria. We combine the research and development expertise of our staff with the skills and resources of our partners to harness the most promising science wherever it may exist around the world. In 2019, TB Alliance became the first not-for-profit organization to develop and register an anti-TB drug.
Reason for Submission
TB Alliance implements large scale TB clinical trials around the world, testing novel drug regimens that have the potential to cure all forms of TB; additionally, our access program includes products that serve paediatric and drug resistant TB patients. The clinical trials we implement enrol TB and HIV patients as well as other vulnerable groups considered high-risk for serious or fatal outcomes from corona virus. The current crisis directly impacts our patients as well as broader target population and our ability to safeguard them against various increased risks. Below we outline these threats as well as challenges it poses on our staff and operations.
Our most immediate concern is based on our current knowledge of the corona virus, an airborne respiratory disease with a high mortality rate that will likely have a massive impact on populations and healthcare systems, especially in developing and emerging economies. Moreover, the new virus will disproportionately affect poor and vulnerable populations, who often live in overcrowded conditions and without safety nets. These circumstances will no doubt hinder if not totally prevent such vulnerable populations from social and physical distancing. An outbreak of COVID-19 is a ticking time bomb for these communities!
Over the years, global TB and HIV programs have made notable progress – the current pandemic, however, threatens these achievements. Socio-economic unrest fuelled by current and prolonged uncertainties as well as enormous pressures faced by healthcare systems may reverse or even worsen present global health realities and fragile states.
In the immediate shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, TB Alliance has been working towards understanding the impact of Covid-19 across all aspects of our work. First and foremost, we are deeply concerned for the safety of our staff, those who work on our projects, and TB patients; this pandemic serves to markedly exacerbate the struggles and challenges that poor people and their communities constantly face – a lack of adequate diagnostics, preventatives and therapeutics, and perpetual social stigma. TB and TB-HIV co-infected patients, with their underlying pulmonary compromise, are both at extremely high-risk for being amongst the most severely affected by COVID-19 as well as more likely to suffer from the diversion of scarce health services to care for COVID-19 sufferers.
The challenges we are considering thus far from the impact of COVID-19 include:
Patients and ongoing late stage trials
Early phase research and development
Science and global network
Market access/product introduction/Phase 4 trials
We are very concerned about the financial impact of this pandemic on us as an organization and our programs. Above are multiple examples where we predict potential delays that inevitably mean additional costs or solutions to new problems that will invariably incur greater financial spend. With much bilateral funding coming from GDP-linked development budgets and the Gates Foundation’s dependency on its investments in stock markets, it is likely that there will be difficult choices to be made by donors that could impact ongoing and future research into new treatments against TB that are looking very promising. We have several upcoming grant renewals, DFID being one of them, and contingency plans such as budget-neutral one-year grant extensions would hopefully be considered. Of course, the current crisis does very strongly showcase both the need for public health focused research and product development in infectious disease management and global health security as well as the price of inaction. It is hard to say how these two will play out against each other.
In the coming days and weeks, we will continue to learn the full extent COVID-19 will have on our access programs and on our partners around the world.