Approved: Game changer anti-TB drug welcomed in South Africa

A game changer anti-TB drug developed to treat high drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration

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South African health news

THANKS TO THE new treatment, which has the success rate of up to 90%, South African fashion designer Inncocent Molefe has been cleared of the disease fours years after being diagnosed. “I was willing to beat TB and I’m living proof. I can move around,” the Soweto-based designer was quoted as saying by AFP.

The announcement was especially welcomed by the health fraternity here in South Africa, home to more than 320,000 people affected by TB, the third highest burden country worldwide after India and China. 

The World Health Organization estimates that TB affects nearly 10 million people worldwide with roughly 1.6 million people dying from TB, 124,000 of which are from South Africa alone. Worldwide, more than 4 000 people die every day of TB caused, with 3.6 million going undiagnosed and untreated every year.

British actress Emma Thompson speaks out about the importance of testing for TB

“Usually and in many places in the world the treatment for multiple drug resistant TB would take anything between 18 and 24 months,” said Pauline Howell, principal investigator of the clinical trial at Sizwe Tropical Disease Hospital in Johannesburg. “This still includes daily injections for six months, which are extremely painful,” Howell said, adding that taking only five pills would make a huge difference.

The FDA approval represents a victory for those suffering from highly drug-resistant forms of TB, said Mel Spigelman, president and CEO of TB Alliance. According to a 2014 report, there’s been an estimated 480 000 cases drug resistant TB cases worldwide.

Anti-TB drug trial; history

Derived from naturally occurring compounds, Pretomanid is developed by the New York-based non-profit organisation TB Alliance. It has been in the works since 2002 and is the second major anti-TB drug to be licensed for human use since rifampicin in 1963. 

Trialed at three sites in South Africa involving 109 patients, the treatment regimen has achieved a 90 percent success rate after six months of treatment and six months of post-treatment follow-ups.


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