China study supports use of repurposed drug, shorter regimen for MDR TB treatment

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Patients treated for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis with an experimental regimen containing a repurposed drug for a year had similar rates of successful outcomes as patients treated with the standard available regimen over the course of 18 months, a study across multiple health facilities in China has found.

The only significant difference between the outcomes of the two regimens, authors of the report published in Clinical Infectious Diseases this week write, was the amount of time before patient samples no longer produced tuberculosis cell cultures — an indication the patients were cured — with about 13 percent more of the patients receiving the experimental regimen achieving that result in three months, over patients receiving the standard treatment. The results echo those from similar studies including one in Bangladesh which found an 88% recurrence-free cure rate among patients treated in a shorter regimen, using the same repurposed drug, clofazimine.

The authors note that while drug discovery efforts have led in the last decade to regulatory approvals of the new anti-tuberculosis drugs, bedaquiline and delamanid, complicated local approval processes and high costs have limited their use in settings where they are needed most. The drugs were not available in China when this study began. The authors recommend continued research to explore the effectiveness of clofazimine in tuberculosis treatment regimens.

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