DLSHSI’s tuberculosis (TB) and health economics experts are gearing up for the implementation of an important research on TB diagnostics which aims to identify the most cost-effective way of using diagnostic tools to improve detection rates of patients with both TB and its more potent offspring – the multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).
The entire research program, which will run for three years, will cost more than 50 million pesos to support activities of two groups of researchers. Aside from the DLSHSI team, there was also a counterpart team from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) in the United Kingdom. This project is part of the Newton Agham Program or the UK-Philippines Joint Heath Research Grant for Infectious Diseases.
The project, entitled “Impact Assessment of Diagnostic Tools for Multi-Drug Resistant (MDR-TB) and Drug Sensitive Tuberculosis (DS-TB) in the Philippines” is touted as an important component of the Philippine’s fight against TB which continues to be the 6th largest cause of illness and death among Filipinos. While the Philippines, through its National TB Program (NTP), has made great headway in controlling TB infection in the country, detection rates for the more potent MDR-TB is still low. In the province of Cavite, only 35% of suspected MDR-TB cases are actually detected. While this is better compared to the WHO’s global rate of 12%-16%, in the Philippines, the burden of TB is doubly heavy because of the increasing cost of diagnosis and management and most of those infected are poor and rely only on the government’s health infrastructure.
“It is important that we develop appropriate strategies that will help health practitioners provide patients with cost effective options for diagnosis,” says Dr. Charles Yu, the project’s primary investigator. Dr. Yu is a professor at DLSHSI’s College of Medicine and is currently the Vice Chancellor for Lasallian Mission. He is a renowned pulmonologist and expert in TB, especially in the Asia-Pacific region and serves as a WHO consultant on Public-Private Management of the TB DOTS program. He is currently the president of the Global TB Alliance, and is the head of the Asia Pacific Society’s TB assembly. He was also a member of The Union TB Education Working Group.
Dr. Yu was aided by his co-investigators who are among DLSHSI’s noted researchers in TB, infectious diseases, and health economics. The Philippines team is composed of Dr. Victoria Dalay, Dr. Victor Mendoza, Dr. Jovilia Abong, and Ms. Celine Garfin.
Dr. Victoria Dalay is the director for Research Support and Extension Services at DLSHSI’s Angelo King Medical Research Center (DLSHSI-AKMRC) and is the head of DLSHSI’s Programmatic Management of Drug-resistant TB (PMDT) Treatment Center. She is co-chair of the Regional Coordinating Committee that leads the TB Control Program in Region IV-A and helped develop a plan of action to control TB for 2014-2016. She has also been the site investigator for USAID and NIH projects.
Dr. Victor Mendoza is a health economist based at DLSHSI who has published award-winning cost-effectiveness studies in his field of specialization – internal medicine and cardiology.
Dr. Jovilia Abong is an internist with a subspecialty in allergy and clinical immunology. She chairs of the Clinical Epidemiology Department of DLSHSI’s College of Medicine and is the director of Research Administration and Development.
Ms. Garfin is the manager of the Department of Health’s National Program for TB and has published numerous articles on TB surveillance. She is the government’s point person for all TB related activities in the country.
Dr. Yu’s team was complemented by a UK team that was composed of scientists from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, which has been a key partner in the TREAT-TB initiative responsible for impact assessment, as well as health economics and operational modeling.
An expert in Clinical Tropical Medicine, Professor S. Bertel Squire is director of the Center for Applied Health Research and Delivery (CAHRD) of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and past president of The International Union Against TB and Lung Disease. Together with his colleagues at LSTM, Malawi, and China, he has built a program of multi-disciplinary applied health research aimed at providing knowledge for action in making health services for TB more accessible to poor people in developing countries. He was joined in the DLSHSI study by Mr. Ivor Langley, a research analyst at LSTM who is an expert in health systems modeling. Mr. Langley has also been involved in developing an innovative modeling approach for impact assessment of new diagnostic tools and treatments for TB and MDR-TB. The British team is completed by Dr. Elvis Gama, a health economist at LSTM whose current research includes the evaluation of catastrophic costs for patients seeking TB diagnosis and cost effectiveness evaluations of new MDR-TB regimens.