KARACHI: The endTB Project, a partnership between Partners In Health (PIH), Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), Interactive Research & Development (IRD) funded by UNITAID celebrated initiating 90 eligible drug-resistant TB patients on treatment with new tuberculosis drugs Bedaquiline and Delamanid.
Bedaquiline and Delamanid are the first new drugs approved for TB treatment in 50 years and have the potential to shorten the course of treatment, improve cure rates, and minimize side effects, it said.
The endTB Project benefits patients in Pakistan and 14 other countries across the globe. Availability of these drugs and experience in using them will provide an opportunity for new, more effective and shorter treatment regimens for MDR-TB to be implemented.
Despite considerable efforts to eradicate the menace of TB, Pakistan continues to rank 4th globally, among countries with highest burden of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB). Pakistan is one of the six countries that contribute about 60 percent of the global burden of TB.
MDR-TB does not respond to standard TB drugs and, if left untreated, can spread to contacts and, if treated poorly, can lead to amplification of resistance leading to extensive drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB). XDR-TB is very hard to treat, requiring two years of continuous treatment with high mortality rate.
Fuad Mirzayev from WHO Global TB Programme in Geneva said ‘MDR and XDR-TB are the most-difficult-to-treat forms of tuberculosis, but now patients have new hope with two new anti-TB medicines, Delamanid and Bedaquilline.
These two medicines are recommended by WHO. This initiative by UNITAID-supported endTB project is a vitally important first step in introducing them into routine use in Pakistan and 14 other countries.
Experts shared early experiences of patients initiated on treatment with new drugs through the endTB Project. In addition to treatment, patients receive free consultations, free lab tests, social support (food baskets and transport allowance), nutritional support, counseling as part of the regular services provided to a patient on drug-resistant TB treatment.
Speaking at the event, Dr Michael Rich from Partners In Health said “Even though MDR-TB is difficult to treat, we now have two new anti-TB drugs that can make no patient die from MDR-TB. These two drugs, Bedquiline and Delamanid, give real hope to patients with highly resistant TB. The new drugs will be important tools in our arsenal to fight TB and allow zero deaths, and zero suffering from TB a reality.”
Patient stories were shared at the event, showing that initial results were promising and benefitting patients who had lost all hope of cure.
A MDR-TB patient, Rehana of Mirpurkhas, had been a victim of the disease for almost 15 years. Expressing deep gratitude after experiencing dramatic improvement in her health, she also voiced concern about the inaccessibility of these drugs to patients in her district and in other areas of Pakistan.