TB Alliance today announced the launch of its new web portal (tballiance.org/children) which seeks to bridge an information gap that contributes to the longstanding neglect of children with tuberculosis (TB).
Currently, there are no adequate TB drug formulations for children. The lack of child-friendly medicines for pediatric TB means that pills meant for adults are often split or crushed and then mixed together for children to take daily for 6-30 months—turning treatment of a leading childhood killer into daily guesswork. TB Alliance has spearheaded an initiative, in partnership with the World Health Organization and primarily funded by UNITAID, to improve pediatric TB treatment with the goal of ensuring all children with TB receive appropriate treatment.
The online resource brings together what is known about childhood TB as a building block in TB Alliance’s efforts to jumpstart the production of child-friendly TB medicines. This includes information on the scope of the problem, resources that address key markets and regulatory issues companies face in advancing new treatments for children, and advocacy and other materials intended to raise awareness and spur action to improve treatment of children with TB.
“The new web portal is not just a resource for data and statistics,” explained Cherise Scott, Director of Pediatrics Programs at TB Alliance. “This is a dynamic tool kit for educating stakeholders of all stripes—researchers, companies, clinicians, policymakers, and the public—on the problems that childhood TB presents and the solutions that the global community must work toward.”
The WHO reports that more than half a million children became ill with TB and an estimated 74,000 children died of TB in 2012, placing it among the top 10 leading causes of death among children. Most experts however agree that the true mortality figures are likely much higher; current estimates do not include children who are HIV-positive or children with TB whose death was attributed to other diseases such as pneumonia.
Without an accurate assessment of the number of children with TB or an impetus for the global health community to take action, companies do not have an incentive to invest in TB drugs for children. In fact, WHO released new dosing guidelines for childhood TB treatment four years ago. However, still today, there are no medicines being manufactured to these specifications. Pills meant for adults have been introduced to the market or are nearing introduction, but pediatric formulations of these innovative treatments face massive delays. TB Alliance’s efforts to better quantify the impact of tuberculosis and build a market-based case for child-friendly TB treatments should help ensure sustainable access to new, beneficial drugs.
The web portal presents known pediatric TB data alongside fact sheets, infographics, videos, and other content that explain why children with TB have been neglected by the global health community, and how to end this neglect. An extensive question-and-answer section addresses the data gaps, market needs and funding demands. Social media links allow all content to be shared, with specific effort to mobilize information through Twitter and LinkedIn. Access the portal at: www.tballiance.org/children
About the TB Alliance
The Global Alliance for TB Drug Development (TB Alliance) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to finding faster-acting and affordable drug regimens to fight tuberculosis. Through innovative science and with partners around the globe, we aim to ensure equitable access to faster, better TB cures that will advance global health and prosperity. The TB Alliance operates with funding from Australia Aid, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, European Commission, Global Health Innovative Technology Fund, Irish Aid, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, UNITAID, United Kingdom Department for International Development, United States Agency for International Development, and the United States Food and Drug Administration. For more information please visit www.tballiance.org.