Union World Conference on Lung Health: Better medicines to treat TB in children arrive

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Science Speaks is in Cape Town, South Africa this week, providing live coverage of news and events at the 46th Union World Conference on Lung Health.

Science Speaks is in Cape Town, South Africa this week, providing live coverage of news and events at the 46th Union World Conference on Lung Health.

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Today the TB Alliance, UNITAID and partners announced the availability of simple to administer and affordable medicines in the correct doses to treat tuberculosis in children. With 140,000 children globally who die of the curable disease every year, the announcement, made at the Union Lung Health conference in Cape Town, South Africa, is one that parents and care providers have been waiting for.

No longer do they have to treat children by crushing or chopping up medicines meant for adults, which often results in improper dosing and makes treatments less effective, leading to poor health outcomes and the development of drug-resistance.

“The new fixed-dose formulations for children will offer hope for the 400 children who needlessly die of TB each day,” said Dr. Mario Raviglione of the World Health Organization at the launch. “Urgent action is needed to ensure these medicines reach those in need and rapidly improves child survival from TB.”

The new fixed-dose combinations of the three most commonly used drugs to treat tuberculosis, rifampicin, isoniazid, and pyrazinamide, are dissolvable and flavored so they’re easy to administer and easy for children to take. The new formulations are the first to meet the dosage guidelines set by the WHO in 2010.

Largely funded by UNITAID, the new formulations will be available early next year.

When Monique Davids’ three-year old daughter and newborn son had TB, the care provider from Cape Town said she began to lose hope that they’d survive because “they were so sick and it was so difficult to give them the medication.”

“TB is already such a long struggle for families,” she said. “With these new simpler medicines, at least the treatment doesn’t have to be such an ordeal anymore.”

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