Survey Finds Shortage Of TB Medicines In U.S.; Consequences Similar To Lack Of Access In Developing Countries, Advocate Says

“More than 80 percent of health departments in the United States that treat tuberculosis [TB] resistant to standard treatment have trouble obtaining the drugs they need to cure the disease, according to a national survey released on Thursday,”Reuters reports. “Difficulties obtaining the drugs could be attributed to nationwide shortages, shipping delays and a complicated process for procuring new drugs that are still being tested, according to a National Tuberculosis Controllers Association survey of health departments,” the news agency writes, adding, “The final results of the 2010 survey were released on Thursday and cited by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which said possible solutions could include obtaining drugs from foreign manufacturers, stockpiling them, and creating an expedited approval process for new drugs” (Beasley, 1/17).

“While the immediate causes of tuberculosis drug shortages in the United States differ from the causes of drug shortages in resource poor settings, where disease burdens are higher, the origins and consequences end up being similar, Erica Lessem, assistant director of [the Treatment Action Group (TAG)] TB/HIV Project, told” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog. In its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (.pdf), the CDC “notes the consequences of [drug shortages] on communities — sicker patients, increased drug resistance, longer periods of infectiousness, and increased transmission of drug-resistant tuberculosis” and “also describes the toll on health systems, including drug rationing, higher costs, overburdened staff, and errors,” the blog reports. A perception that TB incidence is under control, as well as lack of surveillance, contribute to the problem, according to Lessem, the blog notes. “The fewer resources we invest in TB now, the greater the problem is going to be later on,” she said, adding, “It’s going to be much more expensive later on,” the blog writes (Barton, 1/17).