This guest blog was written by Dr. Mel Spigelman, president and CEO of the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, a Council member, and Dr. Ray Woosley, president and CEO of the Critical Path Institute.
For those of us in the field of developing and delivering anti-tuberculosis drugs, World TB Day is rarely a time for celebration. Every year, the number of new infections and deaths grows, while the tools we have to prevent and treat them remain the same. There have been new commitments and incremental signs of progress over the years, but with nearly 2 million people dying each year, it hasn’t been enough.
We are happy to say, however, that this year, we see new potential. Today, working in partnership, we launch an unprecedented effort across the public and private sectors that will help bring about more effective TB drug regimens much sooner than previously thought possible.
Just in time for World TB Day, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, helped to announce a new initiative that joins representatives from major public health organizations, pharmaceutical companies and the World Health Organization in an initiative that could speed the development of newer and more effective TB treatments.
The Critical Path to TB Drug Regimens (CPTR), as it’s called, brings together partners from across sectors to speed the development of new TB drug regimens by testing drug combinations early in the pipeline. This approach could revolutionize the work done by doctors and health workers in the field every day by arming them with the appropriate tools to treat patients successfully.
Through the investments of governments, philanthropic organizations and industry, there are now nine promising compounds from six antibiotic classes in clinical trials and others in discovery or pre-clinical development. Traditionally, these drug candidates would need to be substituted individually into the current treatment regimen one-by-one, a process that could take as long as decades for an entirely new regimen. CPTR proposes to do this differently — by testing them all together early on so that new combinations are available as soon as possible. With this approach, it could take as few as six years to develop an entirely new, safe and more effective regimen.
For far too long, World TB Day has been a marker for our lack of progress against a deadly and treatable disease. This year, we have reason to hope that a new approach to treating TB is just over the horizon, one built on innovation and patient need. Let’s congratulate the partners committed to making this initiative a reality — and, in fact, who have already begun this important work — and continue driving this innovative program forward to save lives.
To show their support, we have invited other stakeholders and sponsors in TB drug research to sign CPTR’s Statement of Principles. At this time, these organizations include Anacor Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Critical Path Institute, European and Developing Countries Clinical Trial Partnership, GlaxoSmithKline, the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Otsuka, Pfizer, sanofi-aventis, Sequella and Treatment Action Group.