Out of Step 2015: TB Policies in 24 Countries: A survey of diagnostic and treatment practices, November 2015
Optimized TB Policies: Crucial Steps to Ending TB
This year marks a crucial crossroads in the fight against tuberculosis, which is now the leading global cause of death from an infectious disease. While the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target to halt and reverse the spread of TB by 2015 was met, there were still 9.6 million new cases and 1.5 million deaths from TB in 2014. This year, world leaders set the most ambitious TB goals yet with the endorsement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDG target to end TB by 2030, along with the globally-endorsed milestones and targets laid out in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) End TB Strategy, together present both a challenge and an opportunity for the TB community to change, adapt, and take every step necessary to realize the vision of a world where no one dies from a disease that is curable and preventable.
At the current rate of progress, the world won’t reach the 2030 targets for TB incidence and death until 2182, nearly 150 years behind schedule. The Stop TB Partnership’s Global Plan to End TB 2016-2020 sets out to change this through a costed, scalable blueprint for how national TB programmes can become significantly more ambitious and effective over the next five years to meet the 2035 targets in support of the WHO End TB strategy. This will only be possible through a paradigm shift in how we prevent and treat TB, coupled with optimal use of every tool available, forcefully pursued by all stakeholders. How quickly and effectively these tools will be leveraged to boost the TB response is largely dependent upon three factors: effective policies at the national level; full implementation of the latest WHO guidelines; and access to the most effective drugs and diagnostics.
Our survey results illustrate that the global TB response is indeed out of step with known best practices that are essential to meeting the target of a 90% reduction in TB incidence and 95% reduction in TB mortality by 2035. In order to achieve this long-term goal, significant improvements must be made at the national level. These include an enabling policy framework, and an upgrade in tools, strategies, and guidelines in line with international recommendations by WHO. The global TB community also needs a set of metrics, beyond the number of people diagnosed and cured, to monitor progress towards the goals and to help shape demands for the accountability of national governments and global health actors.
Out of Step Report: A Survey of TB Policies in 24 Countries
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) published the first Out of Step Report in 2014 with an assessment of the uptake of TB tools and the status of national TB policies in eight countries. The report identified five deadly gaps in areas of TB diagnosis, treatment of drug-resistant TB, models of TB care, access to new and repurposed drugs, and funding. The survey revealed that countries need to improve their TB policies and take bold steps in order to bend the curve of the TB epidemic downward. It found that the lagging implementation of many policies is indicative of the challenges faced globally by low- and middle-income countries in implementing and funding all of the various components required for a comprehensive and effective TB programme.
The 2015 Out of Step report presents the results of a survey of 24 countries conducted by Stop TB Partnership and MSF. Building on the previous Out of Step report, this year’s survey tracked adoption of the latest TB policies, guidelines and tools across five areas: diagnosis and drug resistance testing; drug-sensitive TB (DS-TB) treatment regimens; MDR-TB treatment regimens; models of care; and regulatory frameworks. The results of this survey provide a snapshot of the world’s readiness to defeat the TB epidemic. Although effectively implemented policies and guidelines alone will not be sufficient, they form the foundation for a strong and comprehensive TB response that leaves no one with TB behind.
While this report is not a comprehensive or authoritative assessment of countries’ national TB policies, it provides an indication of the level of preparedness to implement and scale up action. The results of the survey show that many countries need to take bold steps to bring their policies up to date with the latest international standards. There is a greater need to use rapid molecular tests for diagnosis of TB and drug resistance and to reduce out-of-pocket expenses for people with TB. This, coupled with innovative approaches to active case finding, will help reach the nearly 4 million with TB missed by health systems each year. Older treatment regimens need to be replaced with up-to-date fixed dose combinations for the treatment of people with TB. People with drug-resistant TB should have access to the most effective drugs and regimens, and many countries need to change their policies to make new drugs available through compassionate use while drugs are being registered and to establish accelerated mechanisms for the registration of new drugs. Updating National Essential Medicines Lists in line with the latest WHO recommendations is also a key step.
While the overall progress towards global TB goals is clearly ‘‘out of step’’, many countries are making rapid progress towards being in-step with the latest international recommendations. The new Sustainable Development Goal to end TB by 2030 and the Global Plan to End TB 2016-2020 will further challenge countries to ensure that their policies are up to date. We recognize that the adoption and adaptation of policies to national and local situations is challenging and can take time. The countries that participated in our survey are making impressive efforts to put the latest recommended policies in place, and we are grateful for their participation and transparency, which will help inform other countries and serve as a valuable tool for further discussion and learning.
The decisions made at this critical juncture for the TB community will set us on the path to either win or lose the race to reduce TB incidence by 90% and TB mortality by 95 %. Will we continue down the same path, using outdated policies and approaches that have resulted in slow declines over the last 10 years? Or will we step up to the challenge and make this the year that we embrace new tools and innovations in the fight against TB.