18 June 2016

Africa: New Tuberculosis Treatment Plan Gets WHO Nod

Photo: WHO
Tuberculosis medication (file photo).

A new treatment regimen that was recently approved by the World Health Organisation for drug resistant tuberculosis will reduce treatment time and cost by half.

The new plan comprising tablets and injections -- will last between nine and 12 months compared with the current 18 to 24 months.

According to Enos Masini, head of Kenya's head of the National Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Lung Disease programme, the drugs cost $1,000 per patient for the entire treatment, which is much cheaper than some treatments that can cost upto $15,000.

Currently, some patients take as many as eight tablets a day as well as an injection every day.

Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is resistant to the two most potent drugs used to treat the disease. Drug-susceptible TB usually takes six months to treat, but MDR-TB can take almost two years to treat with injections and pills and causes horrendous side effects such as psychosis, deafness and liver toxicity.

Death rate

The 2015 World Health Organisation Tuberculosis Report said only 48 per cent of MDR-TB patients survive globally. According to the report, 39.5 per cent of those who developed this type of tuberculosis died.

WHO recently tested a standardised treatment regimen in 14 countries that included Rwanda and Burundi.

Based on the success of the studies, the global health body updated its treatment guidelines for drug-resistant TB in May 2016 and included a recommendation on the use of the shorter MDR-TB regimen under specific conditions.

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