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Tue 1 May 2007 12:00 AM

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Lilly invests $50 million in TB fight

Eli Lilly and Company has confirmed plans to invest an additional US $50 million in a global partnership to fight multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

Eli Lilly and Company has confirmed plans to invest an additional US $50 million in a global partnership to fight multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). This new commitment furthers Lilly's support of an initiative started in 2003 and brings the total Lilly investment in the fight against TB to $120 million.

The funding is designed to support various activities. These include increasing the supply and availability of effective drugs for treating the disease; training for front-line health care personnel; and efforts to focus global resources on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of MDR-TB.

"Eli Lilly and Company understands its role in the global battle against MDR-TB and recognizes its responsibility to those afflicted by this deadly disease," said Sidney Taurel, Lilly's chairman and chief executive officer. "These additional funds will extend our commitment to transferring the technologies and improving the support systems needed to stop the spread of MDR-TB."

Highly contagious, difficult to treat, and a growing threat to global public health, MDR-TB strikes about 450,000 people each year, with the highest rates of prevalence in China, India, South Africa and the countries of the former Soviet Union. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that the average MDR-TB patient infects up to 20 other people in his or her lifetime and cases of MDR-TB have been found in virtually every country surveyed by WHO.

To further complicate the campaign against TB, even more extreme forms of the disease, known as Extreme Drug Resistant TB (XDR-TB), have developed. This happens when drugs used to treat MDR-TB are misused or mismanaged.

"The emergence of the deadly XDR-TB strain underscores the urgency of stopping MDR-TB. It is a global priority," said Dr Mario Raviglione, director of the Stop TB Department, World Health Organisation. "The continued commitment of the Lilly MDR-TB Partnership to the global fight against MDR-TB has greatly helped improve proper TB treatment protocols and monitoring systems. They understood very early that providing drugs to treat MDR-TB was not enough."

The Lilly MDR-TB Partnership is an international alliance of 14 public and private organizations, including businesses, humanitarian organisations, academic institutions, and professional health care associations. Today, each of the Lilly MDR-TB Partnership firms is contributing to increasing the supply of two much-needed MDR-TB antibiotics.

Since 2000, Lilly has supplied more than one million vials of capreomycin and more than five million capsules of cycloserine through the WHO's Directly Observed Treatment-Plus (DOTS-Plus) program. Through the WHO, projects in 40 countries have been approved to receive concessionary-priced MDR-TB drugs for the treatment of up to 26,000 MDR-TB patients.

Another centerpiece of Lilly's MDR-TB Partnership is the transfer of technologies and expertise needed to manufacture the two Lilly antibiotics used to treat MDR-TB, to facilities in the highest-affected countries.

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