While countries roll out exciting and innovative new tests that will enable them to diagnose more patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB), a worldwide shortage of the drugs to treat these patients is likely, international medical and humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières
(MSF) has said.
USAID images_South Africa: Promoting Awareness that Tuberculosis is Curable
2010 saw the advent of the GeneXpert
, a two-hour molecular TB test, which according to PlusNews
will enable diagnosis of more patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB).
However, diagnostic innovations such as these, highlight the implications and successes tackling the TB epidemic. As Norbert Ndjeka, director of DR-TB, TB and HIV at the South African National Department of Health
explains, this faster, more sensitive form of testing could double the number of MDR-TB cases diagnosed in South Africa, where the world’s fifth-largest burden of multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB cases can be found.
“Treating MDR-TB patients takes up about half South Africa’s TB budget” already, and “MSF has estimated that without lower DR-TB costs, South Africa will be spending as much as $630 million on treatment by 2015,”
Costs of DR-TB drugs are a worldwide struggle, yet South African activists have long complained that the country pays predominantly more. Although South Africa cures about 42 percent of MDR-TB patients nationally, according to Ndjeka, the national success rate masks provincial cure rates as low as 10 percent. MSF has called for countries to avert the looming crisis by improving drug forecasting, negotiating better prices and accelerating national medicines registrations.
Further news this week has proven it is not all stories of doom and gloom when it comes to TB drug supply. A positive move has been made by Bayer Healthcare
to provide over 600,000 Moxifloxacin drugs to the World Health Organisation
for use in its Stop Tuberculosis Partnership
, with the WHO expected to provide the antibiotics to China’s national TB programme.
Commenting on the latest donation, Bayer chairman Joerg Reinhardt said:
“We were happy to follow the request from WHO because we believe that this is the right step to address an increasing medical need in patients affected with this serious disease and for whom there are only very limited oral treatment options available.”
The WHO issued a plea to drug makers to donate medicines to help healthcare systems treat tuberculosis patients effectively. WHO director-general Margaret Chan has warned that the world is heading for an era in which common infections will ‘kill unabated’ unless urgent action is taken to curb the spread of antibiotic resistance.
Moxifloxacin is included in the WHO has treatment guidelines as a second-line regimen in patients with multidrug-resistant forms of the disease. Bayer is currently conducting clinical trials of the antibiotic in tuberculosis and the drug could potentially reduce the length of treatment for drug-susceptible TB from six to four months.