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Ground-breaking science, major announcements and the voices of TB survivors

02 Nov 2019

The 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health offered a cutting-edge four-day scientific and community programme. Spoorthi Vedika: Community Connect provided a global platform for tuberculosis (TB) survivors, people living with lung disease and civil society to work with researchers, scientists and policy-makers to find solutions to lung disease and the global TB epidemic.

Among the breaking news announcements made at the conference was the landmark agreement between Sanofi, Unitaid and the Global Fund to significantly lower the price of rifapentine, a critically important drug for TB prevention. The price of rifapentine (Priftin®) will undergo a 66 percent discount; a deal which will help treat latent TB infection, broadening access within the public sectors of low- and middle-income countries with a high burden of TB and TB-HIV.

Also announced were the results of a trial for a new TB vaccine known as M72/AS01E and developed by GlaxoSmithKline, which contributed to preventing TB in 50 percent of people receiving it, representing a significant advancement towards ending the TB emergency. This would be the first new vaccine for preventing TB – the leading cause of death by infectious disease – in nearly a century.

These results were announced at the second TBScience 2019 pre-conference, an official event entirely devoted to basic and translational TB research. This year, TBScience 2019 welcomed over 800 delegates, twice the number of participants from last year.

To amplify the voices of people affected by TB and lung diseases, the conference hosted many TB survivors and advocates like Nandita Venkatesan, who called for urgent action to improve and shorten treatment programmes, and to place people with lived experience of TB central in policy-making discussions. The Union’s first ever Survivors Summit, convened on the eve of the conference, brought together dozens of survivors of TB and lung disease to harness the power of the community and create a more coordinated global advocacy movement.

Tobacco control was among the urgent issues addressed at the conference, with a special World Health Organisation session on ‘Novel and emerging nicotine and tobacco products,’ which highlighted the need for strong tobacco control rather than e-cigarettes to combat the tobacco epidemic. The Union launched the Tobacco Control Pledge, which more than 350 people have signed, pledging their commitment to ending the scourge of tobacco.

This year, for the first time, The Union livestreamed a selection of high-level events and special sessions to extend access to people unable to attend the conference in person. The livestreamed sessions are available to watch and share on The Union’s YouTube channel.

Dr Jeremiah Chakaya Muhwa, who handed over his Presidency of The Union to Professor Guy Marks at the closing ceremony, said of this year’s conference:

“We have heard about some significant advances in diagnosis, treatment and prevention, and some of the extraordinary survivors and civil society partners who are campaigning for rights to access to medicines and people-centred health services around the world.”

Prof Marks will lead The Union as it celebrates its centennial year. “It’s a great honour to be elected to lead The Union in its 100th year,” he said. “I hope that I can do justice to the mantle that’s been handed to me.”

The 51st Union World Conference on Lung Health will be held in Seville, Spain, 21-24 October 2020. The theme, Advancing Prevention, will highlight prevention as a key strategy to ending TB, reducing tobacco use and improving lung health, and avoiding hundreds of thousands of deaths each year.

View scientific highlights.

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