MSF calls on governments to scale up oral TB treatment

By agency reporter
December 29, 2018

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has welcomed new World Health Organisation (WHO) treatment guidelines that recommend drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) be treated with oral drugs only, including newer, more potent drugs with fewer side effects, such as bedaquiline.

Two injectable drugs known to cause deafness and other severe side effects are no longer recommended in the new guideline – an important step towards more tolerable treatment for all patients.

The recommended 18 to 20-month treatment regimen includes more potent drugs – bedaquiline, linezolid, levofloxacin and moxifloxacin – that can help improve cure rates, reduce deaths and cause far fewer side effects.

MSF called on countries with large numbers of people with DR-TB to urgently start implementing these new treatment guidelines for at least half of new DR-TB cases by September 2019, and to make efforts to reach all people in need by March 2020.

“The new WHO recommendations offer the best opportunity in a long time to finally start improving treatment for people with drug-resistant TB, using better drugs that cause fewer debilitating side effects”, said Dr Naira Khachatryan with MSF in Armenia.

“The time is now for countries with large numbers of people with DR-TB to swiftly update their policies and roll out the newer treatment regimen that is more effective and easier for people to tolerate. Let’s not waste a minute in putting an end to the suffering of people who have to endure toxic and agonising treatment with drugs that must be injected.”

An estimated 558,000 people developed DR-TB in 2017, but only 25 per cent were treated. Standard DR-TB treatment used by most countries up to now has required people to take more than 14,000 pills over a period of nearly two years, including up to eight months of the painful daily injections with severe side effects. Just over half of people are cured.

* Read the WHO guidlines for the treatment of tuberculosis here

* Médecins Sans Frontières


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