MPs call for urgent action to tackle "world's deadliest infectious disease"


More than 100 MPs and Peers have today written to the Prime Minister urging her to make tackling tuberculosis (TB) a priority, warning that without urgent action the disease will claim 28 million lives globally by 2030 at a cost to the world economy of £700 billion.

TB was thought to have been beaten with the advent of antibiotics, but the disease resurged in the 1980s on the back of the AIDS epidemic. It is now the world’s deadliest infectious disease, killing 1.7 million people a year, more than AIDS and malaria combined. There is no adult vaccine, and lethal drug resistant strains of the disease are rising.

The letter, which has been signed by MPs and Peers from all parties, has been organised by the All-Party Group on Global TB which is led by Tory MP Nick Herbert and Labour MP Virendra Sharma. Senior Conservatives, including the former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell and former Chancellor Ken Clarke have backed the call.

The MPs urge the Prime Minister to attend a High Level Meeting on TB which will be held at the UN General Assembly in New York in September and to support new action to tackle the disease. They say that “As a major global player in both international development and pharmaceutical research, the UK has a powerful potential role in galvanising action and showing the leadership which the world needs to beat TB."

Herbert co-chairs the Global TB Caucus alongside South African Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi. The international network of 2,400 parliamentarians who have committed to fight TB is credited with elevating the profile of the disease which has in the past been overlooked in comparison with AIDS and malaria, successfully lobbying for action at the G20 and G7.

Pressure is steadily rising to take more action on TB. In November the World Health Organisation convened 79 Ministers of Health at a summit in Moscow to step up action on the disease. Last month, leading UK academics warned the Prime Minister that "current global efforts [to fight TB] remain catastrophically insufficient".

Next week, Herbert and Sharma will convene a meeting in New York of over 40 MPs representing every region of the world to help prepare the ground for the UN meeting in September and put pressure on heads of government to attend.

The UK is the second largest contributor to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, malaria and TB, committing over £1 billion between 2017-2019. Last week the International Development Secretary, Penny Mordaunt, pledged to “redouble efforts in the fight” against TB, malaria and AIDS, saying that “in Global Britain we will take a stronger lead in ensuring Global Health Security”. The UK has led global efforts against the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), with a report by Lord O’Neill, the former Goldman Sachs economist and Treasury minister, warning that TB would account for a quarter of a projected 300 million AMR associated deaths by 2050.

Nick Herbert said: “The Government has shown tremendous leadership on global health, as we can see from their advocacy of the drug resistance agenda and the commitments they made on malaria last week. Now we’re asking for the Prime Minister’s support to tackle the biggest killer of all, TB, which has been relatively neglected. Her presence at the UN High-Level Meeting in September would send a powerful message to her fellow global leaders about the need for action. It would be a fine example of the Government’s agenda for a Global Britain”.

FULL TEXT OF LETTER

Dear Prime Minister We are writing to draw your attention to the forthcoming UN High Level Meeting on Tuberculosis in New York on 26 September 2018 and to encourage the UK Government to make ending TB a priority during this global year of action. As you know, TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious disease, killing 1.7 million people a year. As the only major drug-resistant infection to be transmitted by air, and the cause of one third of all antimicrobial resistance associated deaths, drug-resistant TB is a key element of the threat posed by AMR. While the UK remains a TB hotspot in Europe, countries all over the world are struggling to contain an escalating epidemic, including many of our key allies in the Commonwealth and the G20. TB programmes remain under-resourced, and we lack the tools needed to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease effectively. The UK can be proud of its record to date. Our investment in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and TB has saved millions of lives. We continue to act as a global leader on AMR, and UK institutions are at the forefront of TB research. However, at the current rate of progress, the world will not reach the Sustainable Development Goal target of ending TB by 2030 for another 160 years. Without a major change of pace, 28 million people will die needlessly before 2030, at a global economic cost of £700 billion. Following recognition at last year’s G7, G20 and BRICS summits, as well as a WHO ministerial meeting on TB in November, the UN High Level Meeting offers an unprecedented opportunity to turn the tide against this terrible disease. The UN General Assembly’s Resolution “Encourages all Member States to participate in the High Level Meeting … at the highest possible level, preferably at the level of Heads of State and Government”. We appreciate the very great pressures on your time. Nevertheless, we urge you to attend the UN High Level Meeting in person and support the proposed declaration. As a major global player in both international development and pharmaceutical research, the UK has a powerful potential role in galvanising action and showing the leadership which the world needs to beat TB.

SIGNATURES (116)

The Rt Hon Nick Herbert CBE MP and Virendra Sharma MP

(Co-Chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global TB)

Sir David Amess MP Jonathan Ashworth MP The Baroness Barker Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP Bob Blackman MP Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods MP The Rt Hon the Baroness Blackstone Sir Peter Bottomley MP Rt Hon Tom Brake MP Jack Brereton MP Alan Brown MP

Fiona Bruce MP Chris Bryant MP Richard Burden MP Ruth Cadbury MP

Rt Hon Alistair Carmichael MP Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke QC MP

Rosie Cooper MP Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP Alex Cunningham MP Nic Dakin MP Chris Davies MP Martyn Day MP Steve Double MP Dr David Drew MP Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP Philip Dunne MP

Nigel Evans MP Jim Fitzpatrick MP Yvonne Fovargue MP The Baroness Gardner of Parkes Ruth George MP Stephen Gethins MP Preet Gill MP The Baroness Golding Kate Green MP Rt Hon Damian Green MP

Andrew Gwynne MP Helen Hayes MP Lady Hermon MP Adam Holloway MP Eddie Hughes MP Alister Jack MP Christine Jardine MP

Diana Johnson MP

Gillian Keegan MP Peter Kyle MP Ben Lake MP John Lamont MP Pauline Latham MP Jeremy Lefroy MP Ian Lidell-Grainger MP The Baroness Lister of Burtersett Caroline Lucas MP

Angus MacNeil MP Seema Malhotra MP Scott Mann MP The Baroness Masham of Ilton DL Rachael Maskell MP Stuart C McDonald MP Kerry McCarthy MP

Anna McMorrin MP Sandy Martin MP Mark Menzies MP Rt Hon Maria Miller MP Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP Layla Moran MP Anne Marie Morris MP Grahame Morris MP Ian Murray MP The Rt Hon the Baroness Northover Neil O'Brien MP Mark Pawsey MP Rt Hon Sir Mike Penning MP John Penrose MP Rebecca Pow MP Victoria Prentis MP The Lord Purvis of Tweed Marie Rimmer MP Douglas Ross MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle Andrew Selous MP Jim Shannon MP The Baroness Sheehan

Tommy Sheppard MP Tulip Siddiq MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP Andy Slaughter MP Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Soames MP Alex Sobel MP Rt Hon John Spellar MP The Baroness Stern CBE Iain Stewart MP Julian Sturdy MP The Baroness Suttie Rt Hon Sir Desmond Swayne MP The Lord Swinfen Gareth Thomas MP Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP Justin Tomlison MP The Baroness Tonge David Tredinnick MP The Lord Trees Anna Turley MP Stephen Twigg MP Martin Vickers MP The Baroness Walmsley The Lord Watson of Invergowrie Catherine West MP Martin Whitfield MP Dr Paul Williams MP Dr Sarah Wollaston MP William Wragg MP Daniel Zeichner MP

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