Drug gives hope to TB patients

TB is the biggest killer of people in South Africa. Image: Supplied
The second new drug for tuberculosis in 50 years has been made available in South Africa. TB is the biggest killer of people in South Africa‚ although the underlying cause of infections in 75 % of TB patients is untreated HIV.

[pullquote]Around 450‚000 people contract TB each year in SA.[/pullquote]

About 20‚000 people get multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) each year. The cure rate for MDR-TB in SA is at its highest ever at 50%. But this still means one in two patients will die.

Now a new drug will hopefully save more lives.

Delamanid‚ a Japanese-developed drug‚ has fewer side-effects and is more effective than current medications. Otsuka Pharmaceutical developed the drug for neglected populations.

Since TB is primarily a disease of the poor‚ there has been a shortage of investment in new drugs for the disease‚ which kills 1.5 million people globally each year.

Delamanid has been made available to the National Department of Health to be used in 400 patients for free. Its actual cost is R40‚000 per patient.

Otsuka company executives handed the drug to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Friday morning at a ceremony at Sizwe Tropical Diseases hospital in Edenvale‚ Johannesburg.

Mostoaledi said he had asked the Japanese health minister for the donation in 2015 and is delighted it has been made.

Current MDR-TB drugs are 50 years old and have terrible side-effects‚ including deafness.

But 2017 has been a good year for MDR-TB in South Africa.

Local research has shown the two-year treatment course‚ which includes 14 months of daily painful injections‚ can be shortened to nine months.

Now Delaminid is also available to 400 patients.

Delaminid works well in HIV-positive patients and is fine for diabetics‚ the company executives said.

Diabetics have a three-fold risk of getting TB.

HIV-positive individuals are 10 times more likely to contract TB.

Katharine Child