WHO recommends expanded access to new, shorter, all oral regimens for drug-resistant TB

Incorporating patient data from national TB programs and from ongoing research, the World Health Organization has updated its guidelines on treatment for drug-resistant tuberculosis with an emphasis on accelerating access to more effective regimens that eliminate the inclusion of toxic painful injections.

Among the data leading to the updated recommendation, released in a WHO Rapid Communication Thursday, was data from South Africa’s TB program showing that replacing the injected medicine with bedaquiline — approved in 2012 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat drug resistant TB and still one of the newest tuberculosis treatment medicines — led to better patient outcomes and less loss to follow up care. South Africa’s health ministry announced in June 2018 that it would replace the use of injected medicine that counted permanent hearing loss among its side effects with bedaquiline available to all patients who needed it.

Of the approximately half million people who become sick with drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis each year, only an estimated third accessed treatment in 2018, according to WHO. Among those with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis who were treated, treatment was successful in just slightly more than half, and just 39% of people with extensively drug resistant tuberculosis — illness that doesn’t respond to first or second-line medicines — were successfully treated, according to WHO.

A statement from the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease praised the update, and called for continued research to develop new all-oral tuberculosis treatment regimen and support their adoption in all countries.


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