New Drug, New Hope
Increasingly drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis (TB) are on the rise in India, particularly in hotspots such as Mumbai. Two new TB drugs, bedaquiline and delaminid, are proving to be the very last lifeline for tuberculosis (TB) patients with the most extreme forms of drug resistance show promising results and offer renewed hope to patients whose TB strains are resistant to nearly all drugs available. But access to these new life-saving drugs in India remains greatly restricted; Delamanid is currently only available in India through so-called compassionate use, where a special application for importing the drug needs to be made for each patient. While a few patients benefit from these new drugs in India, many die before being able to access them as they are not widely available.
These new drugs are really the last lifeline for patients who have ran out of all other options. When patients arrive at MSF clinic, they are often in a really bad state. MSF had patients who died before they could be put on treatment. Maybe they would have been alive today if these drugs had been available more easily. Access should be expanded for all those whose chances of survival depend on them.
Bedaquiline and delamanid, which were approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and European Medicines Agency in 2012 and 2014, are the first two new TB drugs developed in nearly 50 years. They represent a new hope for patients sick with the most resistant forms of TB, for whom most existing drugs do not work. Yet, as of October 2016, only 5,700 patients have been able to receive bedaquiline globally, and a mere 405 have had access to delamanid. According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, 580,000 people were eligible for multi-drug resistant TB treatment in 2015.
“Governments, pharmaceutical companies and researchers must prioritise work to increase access to the new drugs for people currently eligible, while supporting collaborative research on better treatment combinations which are reasonably priced and easier for patients to take,” said Dr Gabriella Ferlazzo, MSF TB advisor. “MSF hopes that the upcoming clinical trials will lead to significantly improved treatments in the future – but we see patients every day who can’t wait years for these results, and who need these lifesaving drugs now.”