New hope in fight against drug-resistant TB

Friday, March 24, 2017
More Matshediso

By More Matshediso

Pretoria – The introduction of Delamanid, a Japanese manufactured drug, has ushered in new hope in the fight against multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in South Africa.

Delamanid, manufactured by pharmaceutical company, Otsuka, will initially be made available to 400 patients in South Africa as part of a clinical access research project.

Delamanid received its first regulatory approval from the European Medicine Agency in 2014 for treatment of adult pulmonary MDR-TB, and has since been distributed to about 45 countries for over 2 100 patients.

The South African patients come from Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, North West and Western Cape due to the high prevalence of TB there.

“We have again moved rapidly and recently secured approval from our medicines regulatory body, the Medicines Control Council (MCC) to make the drug available initially to 400 patients in four provinces as part of a research project,” said Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Friday.

He was speaking at the launch of the research project at Sizwe Tropical Hospital in Edenvale near Johannesburg as part of World TB Day celebrations.

“Today, we mark an important milestone through which we will invigorate South Africa’s response to its TB epidemic in general and drug-resistant TB in particular, with the launch of this Delamanid Clinical Access Research Programme,” said the Minister.

Get tested, go for screening

The Minister encouraged South Africans, especially those living near mining areas, to get tested and screened for TB because early detection enables TB to be cured.

“TB is curable. It does not have to be a death sentence. Yet it is the biggest killer amongst the infectious diseases.”

He said inmates in South Africa’s correctional services have higher chances of contracting TB, followed by mine workers. He also said inmates in all prisons get screened for TB and that 90% of mines have informed the department that they screen workers for TB. This will help manage the disease and stop new infections.

Increase in drug-resistant TB

However, the Minister said there is an increase in drug-resistant Tb due to treatment failures, caused by poor compliance to treatment, among others.

“More recently, we have discovered that there is a small but growing number of drug-resistant TB that is being transmitted amongst people who have never had TB before.”

This means that drug-resistant TB is being acquired through primary infection -- transmitted through air.

Minister Motsoaledi said several factors contribute to resistance to TB drugs, including late diagnosis, weak adherence to treatment, poor infection control, and vulnerability of new drugs.

Minister Motsoaledi said it costs government about R400 000 to treat one MDR-TB patient, and the price is double for one extreme drug-resistant (XDR) TB patient.

South Africa registers about 13 000 MDR-TB and 1 000 XDR-TB patients annually.

Minister Motsoaledi said South Africa is currently accounting for about 60% of patients receiving TB treatment globally.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura said South Africa is determined to beat TB but worried that the country’s health system is burdened with diseases and health professionals are overworked.

“We must check what is not working well and what works in our health system,” he said.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, South Africa has the highest estimated TB incidence rate amongst other 22 high burden countries globally, with 834 new TB cases per 100 000 population. -