New Delhi, Aug 17: International humanitarian medical organisation Doctors Without Borders today welcomed WHO's new recommendations for improved treatment for drug-resistant tuberculosis by prioritising the use of several oral drugs and minimising the use of those medicines that must be injected.
The newly recommended 18 to a 20-month treatment regimen can help improve cure rates, decrease mortality and have far fewer side effects.
For these recommendations to be put in place and for those with drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) to receive treatment, Doctors Without Borders or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) called on US pharma company Johnson and Johnson, which produces bedaquiline, to take steps for making the drug affordable for people, particularly in low- and middle-income and high DR-TB burden countries.
Today, only 20 per cent of people globally with DR-TB receive the treatment they need. People on standard DR-TB treatment have to endure an agonizing regimen of medicines for up to two years, involving as many as 20 pills per day, which can cause side effects as severe as psychosis, along with painful daily injections for up to eight months that can lead to hearing loss and deafness, a statement by MSF said.
The current standard DR-TB therapy typically only achieves cure rates of around 55 per cent. "It's well beyond overdue for people living with TB to have a better chance of getting cured of this killer disease with more effective treatments that are easier for them to tolerate," said Dr Mercedes Tatay, MSF's International Medical Secretary, currently in MSF's DR-TB project in Mumbai.
"Governments and treatment providers should not waste another minute and should urgently make sure people can access optimal treatments including bedaquiline, and this means Johnson & Johnson needs to lower the price of the drug and ensure it is available for every person who needs it," Dr Tatay said.