Commissioner backs Labour MEPs’ calls for international action to make TB “a thing of the past”

Labour MEPs today called for European institutions to push for greater funding for research into diseases of poverty, including Tuberculosis, Malaria, HIV and AIDs.

Speaking at an event in the European Parliament to mark World TB Day, organised by the “Let’s Save Lives” campaign, Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for research, science and innovation, backed the calls, acknowledging the key role the EU must continue to play.

Mr Moedas said:

“We must continue our international efforts to make Tuberculosis a thing of the past.”

Theresa Griffin MEP, Labour’s European spokesperson for industry, research and energy, who hosted the event, said:

“In Europe we may think the battle has been won against tuberculosis, but millions of people are still living with the terrible consequences of this disease.

“We need renewed political support and financial investment in new avenues of research and product development – not only plugging the resource and funding gaps that are there, but providing a supportive legislative and regulatory environment that encourages research on TB and other diseases.

“If we are truly to meet the WHO’s target of eradicating TB by 2035, and honouring the theme of World TB Day – reach, treat, and cure everyone -– we need significant investment in ways to diagnose people, to treat people, and eventually to protect people from ever getting TB in the first place.

“We can only do this by supporting innovation in global health. The European Union, as the world’s largest supporter of development assistance, has a unique opportunity to step up to the plate and lead.”

Figures released this week by the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global TB suggest 75 million people could lose their lives to TB over the next 35 years if action is not taken to deal with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

Glenis Willmott MEP, Labour’s European spokesperson on health, said:

“As chair of the European Parliament’s Access to Medicines Working Group, I know one of the major hurdles to dealing with TB is the fact many patients simply do not have access to timely diagnosis and affordable and effective treatments.

“We urgently need coordinated action from governments, the EU and international organisations such as the World Health Organization and I hope that when EU health ministers meet in Riga next week, they will agree concrete action to make dealing with TB and MDR-TB a priority.

“We all need to work together to ensure that one day TB really will be a disease of the past.”

Linda McAvan MEP, chair of the European Parliament development committee, added:

“We have a unique opportunity to make progress in the fight against TB in 2015, as part of our global development efforts. International negotiations at the UN are underway around new Sustainable Development Goals and how these goals will be financed.

“It is vital that strong commitments are made to tackle diseases of poverty like TB, as part of a wider pledge for Universal Health Coverage. Concrete pressure from parliamentarians and civil society will help ensure these commitments are made in 2015.”