12 May 2016 | Statements

Unitaid welcomes WHO endorsement of shorter treatment for multidrug-resistant TB

Geneva – UNITAID welcomes new WHO guidelines recommending shorter treatment regimens in specific cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis that will cut the length and cost of existing treatment by more than half.

The newly recommended regimen can be completed in 9-12 months at a cost of less than $1,000 per patient. It is expected to make it easier for patients to adhere to treatment, potentially reducing deaths from the disease. It will also make it possible to treat more people with existing resources.

Existing treatment regimens make it necessary for patients to take more than 14,000 pills over a period of up to two years and to receive injections for the first 8 months of treatment. WHO’s new guidelines make treatment easier for patients who are not resistant to the most important drugs used to treat multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. Treatment regimens under development may be able to eliminate injections all together in the future and to replace them with tablets.

WHO is also urging researchers to complete clinical trials in order to strengthen the evidence base supporting use of shorter regimens.

“WHO’s recommendations are a significant step forward in recognizing the need for shorter, less expensive treatment options,” said Lelio Marmora, Executive Director, UNITAID. “We remain commited to our search for better, simpler treatments – including options that eliminate the injectable component – to tackle the growing threat posed by drug-resistant tuberculosis.”

UNITAID’s funding has strengthened the capacity to use a WHO-recommended diagnostic test to identify eligible patients for the shorter treatment. The Expand TB project has shaped the market for a novel diagnostic technique with 103 newly-established or upgraded reference laboratories.

In addition, a $60 million UNITAID investment is speeding access to shorter, less toxic and more effective treatments for multi-drug resistant TB, using the first new drugs developed in almost 50 years: bedaquilline and delamanid.

Tuberculosis is overtaking HIV as the deadliest infection in the world. With over 480,000 cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, growing resistance threatens to undo past gains if it is not checked.

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