Guest blog post by Stefan Gijssels, Vice President for Communication & Public Affairs at Janssen, a Belgian pharmaceutical company, which is part of the Johnson & Johnson group.
Every hour of every day, more than two new cases of tuberculosis (TB) are registered across the EU. More than 100,000 Europeans suffer from TB with one quarter of TB related deaths occurring in Romania, followed by Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria and Portugal. Set against this scourge, eight new therapies are currently being developed across the European Union (EU), one of which is in Phase 3.
Parallel to the development of those new treatment options, a major step toward achieving the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 2014 objective to reduce TB-induced mortality by 95 percent by 2035 was announced last year when the Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI) was awarded €24.6 million by the European Commission 2020 framework programme to develop a vaccine to treat this disease.
But, while ensuring equal and timely access to new treatments is crucial, access to disease-space information is often the most critical tool for effective prevention and care. Relevant information helps to provide answers to some of our most pressing questions, while potentially offering new insights into issues that might otherwise remain invisible.
However, the complex challenges we face today, such as the future of care in Europe, are as much about making sense of the data as about accessing the data itself. Without context, data often paint a one-dimensional story. Conversely, when we are able to connect different sources of data and compare and contrast information between diseases and countries, entirely different stories emerge.
On the occasion of World TB Day, the spotlight has once again been cast on the importance of making critical health information accessible and understandable. In embracing this challenge, Janssen has brought to life the EU. Disease Lens, a digital tool designed to help individuals access, share and compare important data, including burden and prevalence, from across 15 disease areas – including TB – in 28 EU countries.
Conceived by the Janssen Health Policy Centre, this intuitive and interactive platform aggregates data from a number of authoritative public sources, including the WHO and the European Commission (EC). Through any mobile or desktop device, individuals can now explore and compare data from across all EU member states.
Understanding the true impact of major diseases such as TB continues to be a challenge confronting clinicians, researchers, policy makers, industry and the wider public. Specifically in TB, where multidrug-resistant strands of the disease are estimated to have killed approximately 210,000 people globally in 2013, it is of utmost importance that the broader global public health community understands the gravity of the issues facing patients, their families and those determined to treat the disease.
The 2015 World TB Day comes after the recent conclusion of the “Lets Save Lives” Campaign, a five-month campaign calling for the EU to increase political support for global health research and treatment development targeted at diseases such as TB, malaria and HIV/AIDS. Supported by Members of European Parliament (MEPs) including Theresa Griffin (Socialists and Democrats (S&D), UK), Ulrike Lunacek (Greens-European Free Alliance (EFA), AT) and Catherine Bearder (Alliance of JANSSEN HEALTH POLICY CENTRE Liberals and Democrats (ALDE), UK), this campaign reinforces the need to work together to develop sustainable healthcare solutions for the future.
The EU Disease Lens is a first step toward empowering the healthcare community to keep abreast of all publically available disease data sources. By making this data easily accessible, we hope that this will help unlock a deeper and broader debate around the true burden of diseases, and help policymakers and healthcare professionals find and deliver the best possible health outcomes for EU citizens. To accomplish this, we must work together to combat the high-burden diseases with major impact on society, including diabetes, schizophrenia, hepatitis C, TB, various cancers and Alzheimer’s disease.