Berlin (vfa). “Tuberculosis is malicious – hardly any other infectious disease is as difficult to treat as this disease. And hardly any other claims so many victims worldwide: every minute three people die as a result. Annually that translates into almost 1.7 million victims, the majority in poor countries. Tuberculosis can be successfully fought, however – and we do just that through research, therapy and awareness,“ explains Dr. Wolfgang Plischke, the vfa's chairman of the board of directors, with a view to World Tuberculosis Day on March 24.

Researching pharmaceutical companies are working on various fronts for the health and quality of life of tuberculosis (TB) patients: in countries severely affected by the disease, they provide pharmaceuticals and support the development of treatment facilities and awareness campaigns. They are also currently developing new, more effective TB drugs and vaccines.

Tuberculosis is caused by mycobacteria which attack the lungs or other organs of undernourished or immune-suppressed patients. AIDS patients are therefore particularly susceptible to the disease. Mycobacteria strains are on the rise worldwide, against which many of the available antibiotics are no longer effective. This is also because the pathogens become easily resistant if treatment is not continuously carried out for at least six months.

“Nevertheless, tuberculosis would still be curable in most cases“ says Plischke. “However, the lack of qualified medical personnel and facilities in many countries as well as the unreliable distribution of medicine prevents tuberculosis patients from being identified and being provided with effective treatment. The fact that almost all TB drugs are non-patented and can be provided by generic manufacturers apparently changes nothing about this situation.“

For these reasons, many pharmaceutical companies are involved in various schemes to combat these shortcomings, including Lilly Pharma, which cooperates with the World Health Organisation among others in the Lilly MDR-TB Partnership and dispenses drugs at cost price. AstraZeneca has launched aid programs with the Red Cross and other partners as well. Within the program TB Free, Sanofi-Aventis supports the training of medical personnel and the creation of competence centers in severely-affected South Africa.

“Various vfa companies are examining which new antibiotics, or even those which have already been approved for other pathogens, can cure tuberculosis more quickly and more effective than before“, explains Plischke. Investigational drugs of the firms Bayer, Johnson & Johnson, Otsuka Pharma and Novartis are being tested on patients. Even novel active ingredients, which are currently being developed and tested in the laboratories of AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Sanofi-Aventis, Otsuka Pharma and Pfizer, could also play a role in the coming years. “Many of these projects,“ says Plischke, “are being carried out by companies in cooperation with the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development.“ This alliance (www.tballiance.org) coordinates the activities of companies, academic researchers, foundations, and state and non-state organisations.

Furthermore, many vaccines have already reached the clinical testing phase, which is mostly coordinated by the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation (www.aeras.org). They are derived partly from academic laboratories and party from those of companies. “In a few years we will know which of them can actually protect effectively from TB,“ concludes Plischke.

The German Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (vfa) is the trade association of the research-based pharmaceutical companies in Germany. It represents the interests of 43 globally leading research-based pharmaceutical companies and more than 100 subsidiaries and affiliated companies in the areas of health, research and economic policy. The vfa member companies make up about two-thirds of the German pharmaceutical market and employ more than nearly 78,000 people in Germany, including about more than 18,000 in research and development. The vfa's press conferences – now available on the Internet. For more information, please visit: www.vfa.de/en/press/online-pk-akkreditierung-en.html


For more information, please contact:

Dr. Rolf Hömke
Phone: +49 30 20604-204
Fax: +49 30 20604-209