Child-friendly TB medicines to give boost to fight against deadly disease नयी दवाइयाँ करेंगी बच्चों की टी.बी से सुरक्षा

Child-friendly TB medicines to give boost to fight against deadly disease नयी दवाइयाँ करेंगी बच्चों की टी.बी से सुरक्षा

Availability of easy-to-administer and improved drug regimen for paediatric tuberculosis or TB will soon be available in the market bringing relief to over one million children affected with the disease, writes Aarti Dhar


he improved paediatric tuberculosis medicines soon come in dispersible fixed-dose combinations of correct dosage. These tablets will no longer have to be cut or crushed which often resulted in incorrect doses. Initial roll-out of the medicines is expected in early 2016.  The new drugs, launched by TB Alliance and its partners ahead of the 46th Union World Conference on Lung Health being organised in Cape Town (South Africa), are expected to improve adherence and child survival from TB. 

The improved treatments meet the dosage guidelines set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2010. These drugs are dispersible and palatable, simple to administer and affordable. The project to manufacture paediatric TB drugs is largely funded by UNITAID, Geneva-based international organization that is finding new ways with partners to prevent, treat and diagnose HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Tuberculosis is a leading infectious killer disease and is caused by bacteria that spreads through microscopic droplets released into the air when the untreated, active form of TB coughs or sneezes. Infants and young children are at a special risk of having severe, often fatal forms of TB, which can leave them blind, deaf, paralysed or mentally impaired.

Latest WHO estimates suggest at least 1 million children become ill with TB each year and 140,000 children die of this curable disease. However, children around the world have not yet had access to appropriate TB medicines. However, almost two-thirds of children thought to have TB are never diagnosed or treated. Tuberculosis is often hereditary and passed on from parents to their children.

“The availability of correctly dosed medication will improve treatment for children everywhere,” said Dr Mel Spigelman, president and CEO of TB Alliance, an international non-profit organisation. This is an important step towards ending the neglect that has characterised the care of children with TB for far too long.  The TB Alliance partnered with WHO, UNITAID, USAID and other in the development and introduction of these drugs.

Tuberculosis now ranks as the world’s leading infectious disease killer along with HIV. The disease is curable with treatment, which consists of multiple drugs which must be taken for a minimum of six months. Children need different doses of TB medicines than adults. At present, for parents and care providers to approximate the correct dose for a child, they have to crush or chop available drugs and piece together the treatment regimen. Splitting of pills, which gives the medication a bitter taste and usually results in imprecise dosing, makes the treatment even more difficult for children and their families. This, often, makes treatment less-effective, leading to poor health outcomes and the development of more difficult to treat drug-resistant TB among children.

The WHO revised their guidelines for childhood TB treatment in 2010, recognising that children need higher doses of medicines than they were receiving. Over the past three years, TB Alliance – a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to finding faster-acting and affordable drug regimens to fight TB – has worked with manufacturers ti develop properly-formulated TB medicines that are easier to administer in children.  TB Alliance partners and funders also worked to address market barriers to ensure new treatments reach the children in need.

“If we are to end the TB epidemic by 2030, we must bring children with TB out of the shadows and ensure they are properly diagnosed, treated and cured,” said Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of the Globa TB Programme at WHO. The new fixed-dose formulations for children will offer hope for the 400 children who needlessly die of TB each day, he added.

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 improved formulations that are dissolvable and flavoured so that they are simple for providers to administer and children to take.

Aarti Dhar is a Delhi-based senior journalist who has covered a variety of social, developmental and political issues, which includes over two-decade-long association with The Hindu as Deputy Editor

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