A collaboration between the World Health Organisation’s Stop TB Partnership and UNITAID has forged links to provide medical supplies to 19 developing countries facing a tuberculosis drug shortfall.

Only those countries that are scaling up their TB control efforts and already have commitment from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria - but are not able to immediately cover their full needs in terms of medical supply – will fulfill the criteria to join the programme.

Treatment will also be restricted to medicines for non-resistant TB and allows for countries to stockpile anti-TB drugs if they are faced with a humanitarian emergency. The alliance is expected to get drugs to more than 750,000 people, but will also have another important benefit – that of making the market more predictable and potentially reducing the price of anti-TB medications.

There are 8.8 million new cases of TB every year and 1.6 million deaths.

$26.8m funding pool

The countries that are set to receive first-line TB drugs include Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, Iraq, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Uganda. Stop TB Partnership’s Global Drug Facility will provide the countries with drugs and technical assistance, backed by a $26.8 million commitment from UNITAID that should cover the programme for the remainder of 2007 and 2008.

The Stop TB Partnership is a network of more than 500 international organisations, countries, patient groups, and governmental and non-governmental organisations. The UNITAID initiative was launched in September 2006 by Brazil, Chile, France, Norway and the UK to cut the price of TB drugs in developing countries and to speed up patient access to medication.