Reuters Examines TB In China

Reuters examines efforts to control tuberculosis in China, which has the “world’s second largest tuberculosis burden after India.” The news service writes, “China has 4.5 million TB cases currently; and each year 1.4 million people fall ill with the disease. TB killed 160,000 people in China in 2008, according to the World Health Organization.”

The emergence of drug-resistant TB is a significant challenge in the country. “China ranks second in the world with 112,000 drug-resistant TB cases in 2007, after India with 131,000. … China spent $225 million on tackling TB in 2008, up from $98 million in 2002, according to WHO. These figures do not take into account what patients pay out of their pockets, typically between 47 and 62 percent of their hospital bills,” Reuters writes.

Several factors contribute to the spread of drug-resistant TB in China, according to Lin Yan, director of the International Union Against TB and Lung Disease’s office in China. “Patients stop taking drugs when they feel better, maybe after a month. Some have no money for drugs if the treatment is not free and they don’t even know this is a serious disease,” Lin said. “Some are so afraid of stigma they don’t see a doctor, they just buy drugs over the counter.” Also, “TB affects mostly poor people, who typically live in places where healthcare is not easily accessible,” the news service reports.

The article addresses Chinese scientists’ efforts to develop “a new class of TB drugs based on an old drug called clofazimine, used in the past to treat leprosy.” Ann Ginsberg, chief medical officer of the TB Alliance, said, “They (scientists) found a very promising lead compound and we hope within the next six months … it will come into formal pre-clinical development and get the formal animal and non-human studies that are required to convince the regulators it can go onto people” (Lyn, 1/5).

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