World TB day a perfect opportunity for the to cable money to help save lives - 2012-03-24

On World TB Day (24 March) Labour MEPs are calling for the British Government to help plug the critical financial gap to allow British and European Universities to continue vital medical research and bring new, more advanced TB vaccines to the market by 2020. 

It has become increasingly clear that despite the BCG vaccine being the most widely used vaccine in the world, the death rate of people - especially adults - with TB is still extremely high. This shows that it is imperative that we encourage clinical trials for new candidate TB vaccines, in order to develop a new treatment to counteract this worrying trend.

On February 3rd, a letter signed by all 13 British Labour MEPs was sent to the Coalition Government's Business Secretary, Vince Cable, pleading for the UK to guarantee Britain's share of this investment (€70 million).

"In reply to our letter, the British Government have said they are putting money into AERAS, a company based in Maryland, USA, which we welcome, but this isn't enough," said Glenis Willmott, spokesperson for Labour MEPs on public health.  

"Sadly tuberculosis is not a thing of the past in Europe, at the moment it's killing 7 people every hour. TB is becoming increasingly resistant to existing drugs and vaccines, and it is imperative that we carry out research into new tools to fight this disease . The EU is a world leader in medical research and this is exactly the sort of thing where we should be investing money to save lives, and to create highly skilled jobs." she added.  

The Investment from the European Investment Bank to TBVI (the Tuberculosis Vaccination Initiative) is being borrowed against the value of any future vaccine, with the UK simply having to agree to guarantee their share of the loan in the event that one of the 39 candidates for the new TB vaccine does not make it to production by 2020. TBVI would use the investment to fund ongoing university and clinical research that will save millions of lives.  

Michael Cashman MEP, a long-time supporter of the TBVI and initiator of the Labour MEPs' campaign, said "We should now be stepping up our response to global health crisis, by putting more into the prevention of TB. We urge the British Government and other EU Members to reaffirm commitment to MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) to make funding candidate vaccines for TB a priority. 

"Such an investment would also have a commensurable impact on the fight against the devastating TB epidemic in developing countries. TB is a significant global health concern and is the second leading cause of death from infectious diseases worldwide. Between 1.6 million and 2 million people die annually from the disease. EU funding has been instrumental in generating a robust pipeline of innovative TB vaccine candidates and the UK should commit to a fair share, along with other Member States to continue this vital work. 

"On 24 March, World TB Day, we are asking the UK Government to think about the number of lives that could be saved worldwide," he concluded. 

For queries on the above, or radio and television interviews with Michael and Glenis, please contact David Poyser on 00 32 479790053


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