A medical forum in Armenia gathers health authorities and specialists to discuss tuberculosis, one of the main public health issues in the region. New drugs and therapeutic approaches give hope of better treatment outcomes. Joint and renewed efforts are needed to obtain a better access to the most effective drugs and new treatment regimens for the resistant form of the disease.

Yerevan / Paris – The fourth Tuberculosis Symposium for Central Asia and Eastern Europe, jointly organised by the Armenian Ministry of Health and the international medical organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF), will take place in Yerevan, Armenia, on 17 and 18 February.

More information on the symposium, detailed agenda and contents on TB and DR-TB are available here: www.tb-symposium.org

This medical forum brings together a delegation of 150 participants and speakers: representatives from the Ministries of Health of the region, experts from MSF as well as other national and international organizations and donor agencies, such as the World Health Organization, Partners in Health and the Global Fund.

The symposium, dedicated to “New treatments and approaches to tuberculosis”, aims at sharing information and experiences on new developments in the fight against tuberculosis, and particularly against the drug resistant forms of the disease (DR-TB), which are a public health concern in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

This forum represents “an opportunity to represent the best practices, new approaches and models of TB treatment in the countries, including Armenia, as well as issues existing in the region due to [the need to adapt healthcare provision to economic ] migration, said Dr. Armen Muradyan, Minister of Health of the Republic of Armenia, in his welcoming speech. On the background of developments in medicine and pharmacology, tuberculosis remains one of the main public health issues”.

After more than forty years, new drugs specifically developed against tuberculosis have recently arrived on the market. Other existing antibiotics have showed their efficacy against the disease and can now be used in the treatment of DR-TB. Combined together with innovative approaches to nutrition and adherence support, surgery care and cross border follow-up and care for patients, those innovations could bring hope of better treatment outcomes.

“For the first time in many years, we have new hope for improved treatments for tuberculosis, and in particular for DR-TB, said Dr. Francis Varaine, leader of MSF working group on Tuberculosis. Now we have to collectively turn this opportunity into reality, by improving the access to the most effective drugs, be them new or re-purposed; ensuring that the most effective therapeutic strategies are shared and replicated where relevant; and accelerating research to achieve new, shorter, less toxic and more effective treatment regimens”.

Every year, around nine million people develop active tuberculosis and 1.5 million die from it. Worldwide in 2013, 480 000 persons are estimated having developed multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) and many countries from the former-Soviet Union are among those considered to have a high MDR TB burden.

Currently, a course of treatment for uncomplicated tuberculosis takes a minimum of six months, but patients resistant to the two most powerful first-line drugs have to take an arduous regime for up to two years and face numerous side effects. Finally, only half of them have a successful outcome. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 9% of MDR TB patients have developed an extensively drug resistant form of tuberculosis (XDR TB). Treatments options for those patients are even more limited.

“This platform for discussion is an opportunity for experts to exchange on the results they have achieved so far and the perspectives for the future, said Dr. Varaine. We have the firm belief that joint efforts can contribute to a substantial improvement in drug resistant tuberculosis management all over the region”.

More information on the symposium, detailed agenda and contents on TB and DR-TB are available here: http://www.tb-symposium.org

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare since 1971. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation. Today, MSF has operations in nearly 70 countries.

MSF has been involved in Tuberculosis care for 30 years, and opened its first programmes to treat multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in 1999 in Karabagh. MSF is one of the largest NGO treatment providers of drug-resistant tuberculosis. In 2013, the organization treated 29, 900 patients with tuberculosis worldwide including 1,950 patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis.