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Health News of Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Source: Global Health Technologies Coalition

US cuts will 'devastate' funding for TB, HIV, malaria

Across-the-board cuts to US health programmess could have a devastating impact on efforts to develop new drugs for tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS, the world's first malaria vaccine, and other vital global health products in development, according to a new report released yesterday from a coalition of non-profit groups focused on advancing innovation to save lives.

"We know that policymakers are currently facing difficult budget decisions. But any reductions in funds could eliminate essential support for the development of global health tools and slow or halt the progress made against addressing a number of deadly diseases," said Kaitlin Christenson, MPH, director of the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC).

The report from the GHTC, Renewing US leadership: Policies to advance global health research, comes as Washington is bracing for a "budget sequestration" process that, according to some estimates, could cut 5.2 percent from programs across government, including initiatives that have put hundreds of new drugs, vaccines, diagnostics and other disease-fighting tools into the product pipeline and established the US as the world's leader in developing life-saving global health technology.

The analysis finds the cuts to global health research and development "would barely make a dent in reducing the US federal deficit but would have a crippling impact on people's health and lives around the world."

"There is much to lose by pulling back now," the report states.

Some estimates predict that under sequestration, global health initiatives at the State Department and US Agency for International Development (USAID) could lose $482 million, money that supports, among other things, the development of new drugs to quell an alarming resurgence in deadly TB and new tools to escalate the fight against HIV/AIDS. Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is supporting a new dengue vaccine candidate, new HIV prevention methods, and potential new treatments for TB, could lose nearly $2 billion.

Taken together, the cuts throughout the government could jeopardise any number of the 200 global health products that have advanced in the research pipeline thanks to US support.

Conversely, the GHTC finds that "continued and consistent US investment in R&D…will provide the momentum needed to push promising new tools over the finish line." These tools include: a new microbicide that could give women the power to protect themselves from contracting HIV with or without their partners' cooperation; new insecticides that could help control insects that spread deadly diseases like dengue fever, Chagas, filariasis, and leishmaniasis; new drugs and vaccines to help fight back against the alarming spread worldwide of drug resistant TB; modern reproductive technology that could greatly lower maternal mortality rates by giving women worldwide the ability to plan for the birth of their next child; and a new oral drug for African sleeping sickness, which is fatal without treatment.