UNITAID and partners announce new preventive treatment for latent Tuberculosis
A price reduction of 70%, a much shorter treatment and 3 times fewer weekly pills are the advantages of a new preventive treatment for latent Tuberculosis (TB) that UNITAID and its partners have started to roll out a few days ahead of World Tuberculosis Day (24 March).
“UNITAID is happy to inform you about a new treatment at a very important reduced cost”, said Hervé Verhoosel, Spokesperson for UNITAID. “The new treatment that we want to talk about costs 70 % less than the previous treatments. It is called Rifapentine and by negotiating the new price with the private sector, UNITAID and the UNITAID partners will basically give access to that medicine to more than 100 countries at the price of 15 USD instead of 45 USD”.
The WHO recommends the use of this regimen for treatment of latent TB infection in people living with HIV and contacts of TB cases of any age. Research shows that patients are far more likely to complete shorter treatment courses.
“This treatment started to be rolled out in 5 TB high burden countries in Africa: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Mozambique”, said UNITAID’s spokesperson when talking to journalists at the United Nations in Geneva.
People with active TB can infect 10–15 other people through close contact over the course of a year. Without proper treatment, 45% of HIV-negative people with TB and nearly all HIV-positive people with TB will die.
“Despite being preventable and curable, tuberculosis is one of the deadliest infectious disease in the world killing 1.5 million people each year including more than 250 000 people living with HIV”, informed Mr. Verhoosel.
It is estimated that in 2019 around 10.0 million people fell ill with TB - a number that has been declining very slowly in recent years. 5.7 million are men, 3.2 million women and 1.1 million children. Most of them live in low- and middle-income countries.
“Geographically, South-East Asia represents (44%) of the TB cases followed by Africa with 25% and the Western Pacific with 18%”, said UNITAID’s spokesperson. He added that “eight countries accounted for two thirds of the TB cases in the world: India with 26%, Indonesia with 8.5%, followed by China, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa”.
The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse recent progress in reducing the global burden of TB disease. Due to disruption in health services, the global number of TB deaths could increase by around 200 000 to 400 000 in 2020 alone, should the number of people with TB could not be treated.
However, despite the pandemic, “UNITAID expects that more than 3 million patients could be treated with that new drug in 2021”, said Mr. Verhoosel.