During a press conference last week in Cape Town, TB Alliance and its partners announced the availability of the first child-friendly TB medicines.
Each year, at least one million children get TB and 140,000 die from the disease in part because of the difficulty of providing them with the correct treatment.
Up until now, healthcare providers and parents have had to approximate the correct dose for a child by crushing or chopping the available drugs to piece together a treatment regimen. This has resulted in imprecise doses, poor health outcomes and the development of more difficult to treat drug-resistant TB in children.
The improved treatments are the first to meet the dosage guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2010. They are dispersible and palatable, simple to administer and affordable.
The new TB medicines are fixed dose combinations (FDCs) of the three most commonly used drugs to treat drug-sensitive TB (rifampicin, isoniazid, and pyrazinamide). These are not new drugs, but rather improved formulations that are dissolvable and flavored so that they are simple for providers and parents to administer and easy for children to take.
Over the past three years, TB Alliance has worked with manufacturers to develop properly-formulated TB medicines that are easier to administer in children. In addition to UNITAID, USAID and other funders also provided support for this effort. The formulations are in the process of being prequalified by WHO but are now available under the WHO’s Expert Review Panel mechanism.
Improving the treatment regimen for children is one of the critical steps outlined in the Roadmap for Childhood Tuberculosis, published by WHO, the US Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF, The Union, Treatment Action Group, the Stop TB Partnership, and USAID in 2013.