26 February 2016 | Statements

Unitaid hails initiative to make treatment for drug-resistant TB more accessible

UNITAID welcomes an agreement by Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. and the Stop TB Partnership to  make delamanid, a life-saving drug used for treating multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), more widely available to populations in need in developing countries.

The partnership will allow countries to access delamanid – one of two new drugs approved to fight MDR-TB – through Stop TB’s Global Drug Facility. The procurement facility  helps make available high quality and affordable TB medicines and diagnostics to those in need.

Delamanid and another MDR-TB drug – bedaquiline – are the first new medicines in decades with potential to dramatically improve MDR-TB treatment and to bring down numbers of people dying from the disease.

“UNITAID strongly endorses this concrete step to allow access to this promising new drug,” said UNITAID’s Executive Director, Lelio Marmora. “We intend to increase our activities to help expand its access in the near future.”

MDR-TB and extensively drug resistant TB (XDR-TB) are on the increase and pose a serious global health challenge. Existing treatment regimens for MDR- and XDR-TB can last two years or more and are expensive and toxic compared with treatments for regular TB.

The initiative may also bring hope for children with MDR-TB. Delamanid has been tested with children and results from trials that are now under way are expected in 2018.

UNITAID supports the endTB Project, implemented by Partners in Health (PiH), Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) and Interactive Research & Development (IRD). The project aims to provide adequate use of delamanid and bedaquiline and to facilitate the incorporation of these drugs into  shorter and improved treatment regimens.

Globally, almost half a million patients are estimated to be infected with MDR-TB every year and only around 20 per cent of them are starting treatment. The inclusion of a new drug in the list of medicines available for procurement is an important step towards achieving shorter, more affordable and better tolerated treatments for the people in need.

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