More than 30,000 children develop
tuberculosis (TB) each year in South Africa. For these children, cure comes in
the form of six months of daily, bitter pills made for adults more than twice
Today, TB research non-profit the TB Alliance has announced a
better cure in on the way for kids as the organisation launches new combination
TB treatment for kids.
Monique Davids’ husband, three-year-old
daughter and two-month-old son developed TB simultaneously.
After Jaden was
hospitalised at Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, Davids spent her
days shuttling between the hospital and home – trying to get two very sick but
very resistant young children to take their treatment.
For Davids, it meant taking up to seven
adult-sized tablets and crushing them into powder she mixed with everything
from formula to juice in an effort to get her children to take the life-saving
When her oldest child refused to take the
treatment, she tired bribes before resorting to fear.
“I told her that if she didn’t take the
treatment, the police would come from her,” Davids said. “It was very traumatic
for me because I’d never lied to her before.”
According to Davids, many parents in her
community give up the hard fight to get medicine down kids’ throat with deadly
Read: Khayelitsha clinic leads the way with new TB drug
Parents’ fights may get a little easier
On the 2nd of December, the TB Alliance has
announced the creation of the world’s first combination TB treatments made
especially for children and that adhere to international guidelines.
Funded by the
medicine and diagnostic funder UNITAID, one new formulation combines the most
commonly used TB drugs, rifampicin and isoniazid. A second new combination drug
pairs the two staple TB drugs with a third TB drug, pyrazinamide.
At just about R220 per six-month course,
the new formulations are dissolvable in water and come in strawberry or
raspberry flavours. They also ensure that children will receive the proper drug
doses – something that is not guaranteed when parents are forced to crush adult
tablets into kid-sized powder.
While combination paediatric TB therapy
exists, the new formulations are the first to adhere to international World
Health Organisation recommended doses.
According to TB Alliance President and CEO
Mel Spigelman, the new paediatric TB formulations, were developed in less than
three years and for less money that was originally envisioned.
Read: Doctor saves child with drug-resistance TB in India
South Africa to license the drugs soon
Speaking at the World Conference on Lung
Health in Cape Town, he added that the alliance will register and license the
combination drugs for use in South Africa soon.
“Now that we have the drugs, the real work
starts and that is to make sure that these drugs are adopted and actually
accessible for the patients and families who need them,” he said.
“That is not an insignificant task,” added Spigelman
alluding to the lack of paediatric TB tests needed to diagnose childhood TB.
TB Alliance researchers are also currently
working on a kid-friendly version of the TB drug isoniazid, which can also be
used to prevent the development of active TB as well as a paediatric
formulation of the drug bedaquiline.
The first new drug in about 50 years, bedaquiline
had been rolled out to about 150 patients with extensively drug-resistant TB in
South Africa as of June.
The country is set to spend about R130million to roll
out bedaquiline to at least 9,000 patients over the next three years, according
to Dr Norbert Ndjeka, head of the Department of Health’s division on HIV, TB
and drug-resistant TB.
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