Research released by the Copenhagen Consensus Center yesterday identified TB as a key priority for infectious disease control in terms of cost effectiveness and disease burden. The paper points out that the majority of TB deaths occur among adults in their economically most productive years, which can be an instigator for a family falling into poverty. Addressing TB is therefore of utmost importance, especially considering how cost effective TB interventions are.

Failing to adequately control TB has led to the emergence of drug resistant strains of the disease. Drug resistant strains are 100 times more costly and extremely difficult to treat. The rise of drug resistant TB has been a particular problem in Eastern Europe where the collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in health systems that were starved of resources and subsequently were unable to appropriately manage TB cases.

In summary, the study found that:

“The spread of HIV infection in parts of Africa and drug resistance suggest that the current approach might not be able to bring TB under control, especially in Africa and the former Soviet Union countries. Addressing resistance increases costs and the short-term benefits in saved lives are limited. This means that compared to 2008, when the costs and benefits were calculated for the last Copenhagen Consensus project, the benefits for each dollar spent are actually lower. But, with each dollar achieving more $15 worth of benefits in economic terms, TB control remains a worthwhile investment. Spending $1.5 billion would save 1 million adult deaths annually.”

It is in the interest of the European Union and national governments within the European region to take urgent steps to fight TB to ensure sufficient domestic and regional financing is available to sustain TB control programmes, in particular in countries no longer eligible for financing through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.