[Ip-health] MSF: Just 2% of people with the severest cases of drug-resistant TB currently have access to new, more effective treatments

Joanna Keenan joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Tue Mar 22 06:31:10 PDT 2016

*Ahead of World TB Day, MSF releases its report DR-TB Drugs Under the
Microscope, which looks at prices and access to DR-TB drugs. Please find
press release below and the report via the link. *

*Just 2% of people with the severest cases of drug-resistant TB currently
have access to new, more effective treatments that could save their lives *

Geneva, 21 March 2016—Two years after two new drugs to treat
tuberculosis—the first in over 50 years—were conditionally approved for
use, only 2% of the 150,000 people who need them have been able to access
them, according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).  MSF and other treatment
providers are showing that stronger TB regimens containing one of the new
TB drugs, bedaquiline (marketed by Johnson & Johnson) or delamanid
(marketed by Otsuka), along with ‘repurposed’ drugs—not specifically
developed for TB but that have shown efficacy in treating TB—can
significantly improve the health of people with multidrug-resistant
(MDR-TB). MSF today stressed the urgent need to increase people’s access to
these more effective treatments, by making them affordable and available.

“The potential of these new drugs means that I am seeing people with
extensively drug-resistant TB walk out of the hospital who otherwise would
be dead,” said Dr Yoseph Tassew, MSF’s medical coordinator for Russia.
 “It’s frustrating that after half a century, we finally have new TB
medicines that can save the lives of the sickest patients, but we can’t
offer this hope to all people who could immediately benefit.  MSF is the
only treatment provider able to offer delamanid to people in Russia, with
seven patients on treatment so far. It is vital that companies and
countries work to ensure that the large numbers of patients who could
benefit from these drugs have access to them.”

In MSF projects in Russia (Chechnya) and Armenia, 75% and 80% of people,
respectively, who took a strengthened regimen containing bedaquiline had no
sign of TB based on ‘culture conversion’ rates after six months, indicating
that significantly more people could successfully complete treatment and be
cured than with current treatments, which ultimately only work for 50% of
people with MDR-TB.
The drugs are recommended by the World Health Organization. To increase
access, Janssen and Otsuka should prioritise registration of the drugs in
countries with large numbers of people with TB, so the drugs can readily be
used, and should offer affordable prices to all developing and high TB
burden countries.  Countries should rapidly include the two new drugs in
their treatment guidelines, and temporarily waive import restrictions until
the drugs are registered.

“MSF is treating some of the lucky few people in South Africa, and in fact
the whole world, to receive access to strengthened treatment regimens
including bedaquiline and delamanid,” said Dr. Jennifer Hughes of MSF in
South Africa. “South Africa has been a leader in accessing new DR-TB
drugs—with over 1,750 patients receiving bedaquiline nationally since 2013.
A few actors, including MSF, are providing delamanid under compassionate
use to a handful of DR-TB patients with severely limited treatment options,
though delamanid will not be widely available until it is registered
locally. Despite progress, every DR-TB patient is likely to benefit from
better treatment regimens, but access to new drugs on such a scale is
nowhere close to a reality.”

MSF today published the fourth edition of DR-TB Drugs Under the Microscope,
a report analyzing the barriers and factors affecting access to treatment
regimens for drug-resistant tuberculosis.  The report finds that current
preferred DR-TB treatment regimens are priced between US$1,800 to $4,600
per person per treatment course, not including the new TB drugs or
repurposed companion drugs that can dramatically increase efficacy.  This
represents an important price decrease from the first such report in 2011,
when the same regimens cost $4,400 to $9,000 per person.  However, adding
the new and repurposed TB drugs that could make treatment much more
tolerable and improve success rates for people could unfortunately drive
prices back up.

Otsuka has priced a single course of delamanid at $1,700 per person per
treatment course for developing countries.  While a fraction of people in
need in the poorest countries may receive bedaquiline through a donation
program that Johnson & Johnson has set up, other countries may have to pay
up to $3,000 per course, the price set for middle-income countries that are
outside the scope of the donation programme.

“TB is curable, yet it is now the infectious disease that kills the most
people in the world,” said Dr. Grania Brigden, TB Advisor for MSF’s Access
Campaign.  “We desperately need treatment that is easier for people to
tolerate, that cures more people, and that is more available and
affordable, otherwise it’s just deadly business as usual.”

*Joanna Keenan*
Press Officer
Médecins Sans Frontières - Access Campaign
P: +41 22 849 87 45
M: +41 79 203 13 02
E: joanna.keenan[at]geneva.msf.org
T: @joanna_keenan


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