New TB treatment will reduce burden of constantly taking pills

    A tuberculosis patient holds his medicines received from the government's tuberculosis center in Rawalpindi, Pakistan July 11, 2016. Picture taken July 11, 2016. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

    A new tuberculosis treatment that slashes costs and the pill burden for patients will be rolled out in five high-incidence countries this year, international medical research body the Aurum Institute said Wednesday. TB — a respiratory disease that is preventable and treatable yet kills more than 1.4 million people every year — is chronically underfunded, with diagnosis and treatment failing to reach millions. It is currently the world’s deadliest infectious disease, with progress to stop its spread unwound by the COVID-19 pandemic as restricted movement disrupted treatment.

    “Enough treatments for up to three million patients are expected to be made available for eligible countries this year,” Aurum said in a statement.

    The new two-drug regime will reduce the weekly pill intake for patients from nine to three. This is expected to enable better adherence and outcomes, Dr Tereza Kasaeva, the World Health Organisation’s global TB programme director said.

    Treatment will initially be administered in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Seven other nations will follow later.

    A deal cut between the manufacturer Macleods, Unitaid and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) will cap the price at $15 for a three-month complete regime.

    Aurum Institute’s CEO Gavin Churchyard said the new treatment regime coupled with the price reduction would hopefully help get their aim of eradicating TB by 2030 back on track.

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