Economist Intelligence Unit report underscores major gaps in world’s response to drug-resistant tuberculosis

The Union welcomes a report published today by The Economist Intelligence Unit that highlights the huge gaps in the current response to drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) and includes staggering new data on its devastating impact on human lives, and also the global economy. The report shows that deaths from DR-TB cost the global economy at least US$ 17.8 billion in a single year. In 2017 alone, more than 550,000 people contracted DR-TB in nearly every country worldwide and caused 230,000 deaths.

The Union calls for urgent commitment and action to confront the growing threat of DR-TB. Dr Grania Brigden, Deputy Director of the Department of TB at The Union and contributor to the report, said:

“The figures in this report are alarming and provide sound economic basis for increasing investment into TB now. When we consider that these numbers are based on conservative estimates – they do not capture losses linked to the estimated 400,000 people with DR-TB who go undiagnosed or untreated, or the 70,000 undocumented deaths caused by DR-TB – the potential total effect of TB on a personal and economic scale is staggering.

“Investing in comprehensive TB care and increasing investment in research and development (R&D) efforts is the only logical answer, both from a moral and economic viewpoint. Done correctly, this could leave a legacy of strengthened health systems with more robust response mechanisms, better equipped to confront future health challenges.

“In addition to the global economic impact, households affected by DR-TB incur catastrophic costs as a result, disproportionately affecting those with fewer resources and perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

“Successfully eliminating DR-TB will require shielding those affected from the economic impact of the disease. Ensuring universal health coverage is vital to this effort, which includes ensuring effective social protection strategies such as social welfare programmes, food support, disability grants, transport vouchers, housing support and job security policies.

“This report shows that investing in TB provides a high return on investment, yet funding for TB prevention, care and treatment programmes still falls short of its targets by US$ 3.5 billion – a gap that is expected to increase considerably in coming years unless countries act.”

It’s Time to End Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis: The Case for Action, published by The Economist Intelligence Unit with support from Johnson & Johnson, is available here.