Late last year, TBEC ran a webinar on advocating for access to DR-TB treatment. This is something that was a focus of our work in 2019, starting from World TB Day when we called on countries in the region to stop the widespread use of injectable drugs as a treatment for DR-TB. These injectable regimes have debilitating side effects and can take up to two years to complete. Patients face over 14,000 pills as well as daily injections, and at the end, they only have a 50% chance of survival. At its very core, this means that every second person is sentenced to death. 

In the words of the Co-Chair of the TBEC Board, Dr Jonathan Stillo “People living with DR-TB essentially have to choose between deafness or death. This is a false choice. Today, when there are safe and high-quality drugs for DR-TB treatment, the use of drugs that lead to hearing loss, hepatitis, depression, hallucinations must be equated to torture and inhuman treatment of a person. Urgent access to the safer, simpler, less-toxic treatment regimen now preferred by WHO, will provide an opportunity to maintain their health and choose life.” 

Countries must immediately provide the newer, safer treatments that have been recommended by the WHO. However, it will take concerted advocacy on the part of civil society to enforce this change. Our webinar explored the background behind the new treatment options, as well as informing about ways to push national governments to take on these new regimes. 

The webinar featured presentations by: 

Sharonann Lynch, HIV & TB advisor for  Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières 

Lindsay McKenna, TB Project Co-Director for the  Treatment Action Group 

Vladyslav Denysenko, Senior Advocacy Officer for  100% Life 

Sharonann gave a presentation on securing the quality, affordability and availability of DR-TB drugs after transition from Global Fund support. She explained the steps national governments need to take to ensure that the price, quality and supply of drugs is not affected. She highlighted that the main opportunity for civil society advocacy will come through country dialogue processes on county allocations and funding request preparations. For more information on this, please see the MSF Access Campaign documents and policy briefs. 

Next, Lindsay explained the standard of care that civil society should be advocating for. She talked through the ranking of TB medicines and the new recommendations regarding all-oral regimes, as well as the associated costs. One year on from the recommendations, only four of the thirty high burden TB countries in the world are injectable free. 

Finally, Vladislav presented the experience of 100% life in widening access to new TB treatments for patients in Ukraine. This was a fantastic example of the steps that civil society groups had to work through in order to implement change. 

We would like to extend our thanks to our speakers for sharing their time and expertise, we are very grateful for their involvement and sure that you will find their contributions helpful. We are also very grateful to everyone who attended the webinar or expressed their interest, it is very positive to see so many people interested in the topic! We hope that this information supports you in your advocacy efforts. 

You can find the recording of the webinar and the speakers’ presentations at the link  here. 

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