Drug-resistant tuberculosis

Drug resistance to tuberculosis (TB) occurs when antibiotics are not used properly. This is often a consequence of either improper treatment plans or failure to ensure that patients complete their treatment. Put simply, drug-resistant TB occurs in areas with poor TB control programmes.

Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) is a specific form of drug-resistant tuberculosis where the bacillus bacteria is resistant to at least two of the most powerful anti-TB drugs (Isoniazid and Rifampicin).

More painful and more expensive to treat

While drug-resistant TB is generally treatable, it requires up to two years of treatment with special drugs. These drugs have more severe side effects than the commonly used drugs and are more expensive. Countries can receive financial assistance to buy these drugs through the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Green Light Committee Initiative.

The emergence of extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB, particularly in settings where many TB patients are also infected with HIV, is a serious threat. There is an urgent need to strengthen basic TB control and to follow the relevant WHO guidelines.

With the increased threat of drug resistance, The International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has begun to focus on this issue in all its TB and HIV programmes by:

  • expanding all ongoing and new TB programmes to include people affected by MDR TB
  • joining the Eli Lilly MDR TB partnership in 2004. This is an alliance of 14 public and private organizations, whose main objective is to fight the growing threat of drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Map based on information provided to WHO Stop TB Department 1 May 2007


The International Federation and Lilly multidrug-resistant tuberculosis programme