Child friendly TB medication gives kids a fighting chance: TB Alliance

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FILE: Various pills.

CAPE TOWN - Treating young children with tuberculosis (TB) can be challenging, but this is set to become easier with the reveal on Tuesday that medication for children would now come in pre-metered doses.

The TB Alliance announced on Tuesday that for the first time medical professionals treating children for TB, one of the world’s most infectious killer diseases, would be able to treat them more easily with medicine that ensured children receive the correct dosage. 

The announcement was made at a launch ahead of the 46th Union World Conference on Lung Health which is taking place in Cape Town this week.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about one million children are diagnosed with tuberculosis each year, with 140,000 dying.

Dr Mel Spigelman, TB Alliance President and CEO, said the medication was available “in dispersible fixed-dose combinations at the correct dosages”.

Spigelman said that the improved treatment meant that “tablets no longer need to be cut or crushed”.

“The improved treatments are the first to meet the dosage guidelines set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2010,” he said.

The WHO recognised at the time that children needed a higher treatment dosage than they received in order to receive better health outcomes, and made recommendations around this.

Spigelman said TB treatment was a rigorous six-month process and children required different dosages than adults.

Before the child friendly dosages were made available, healthcare practitioners had to crush or split the medication. This, he said, resulted in children receiving incorrect dosages that jeopardised their treatment, making it less effective, while also making drug-resistant TB in children more difficult to treat.

For three years, the TB Alliance worked together with partners to meet the recommended guidelines and to offer a viable solution to the challenges in treating children for TB and be on target to eradicate TB by 2030.

Director of the Global TB Programme, Dr Mario Raviglione, said this new treatment dosage gave much needed hope to children battling TB and was a great stride forward in ensuring these children were “properly diagnosed, treated and cured”.

The new treatment is the result of a project that was largely funded by UNITAID. The TB Alliance partnered with WHO, UNITAID, USAID, and others in the development and introduction of the medication.

“No child should die of TB, yet for too long, we have not had the medicines or the functioning market needed to mount a sustainable response against childhood TB,” said Lelio Marmora, Executive Director of UNITAID.

“UNITAID’s investment in addressing this problem will increase access to correctly dosed, quality-assured, affordable TB medicines for children that will help save lives.”

The new medication, Spigelman added, “are dispersible and palatable, simple to administer and affordable”.

The medicine would also make it easier to reach more children who did not have access to appropriate TB medicines.

“The availability of correctly dosed medications will improve treatment for children everywhere,” he said, adding that it would prevent unnecessary deaths.

Spigelman added: “This is an important step toward ending the neglect that has characterised the care of children with TB for far too long.”

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