Bangladesh introducing cheaper, shorter MDR-TB treatment course in January

Bangladesh is changing the way the world treats the dangerous form of tuberculosis as the country’s own research has received World Health Organisation’s (WHO) approval.

Nurul Islam
Published : 17 August 2016, 04:23 PM
Updated : 17 August 2016, 07:11 PM

National Programme Officer of the National Tuberculosis Programme Dr Md Mojibur Rahman said they would shorten the treatment of the multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) to nine months from two years from January.

“We got the WHO’s approval in May. The new course will be shorter and cheaper,” he said on Wednesday at a discussion with journalists.

“This will open a new era in MDR-TB treatment. Patients will be hugely benefitted since it will be easier for them to complete the full course (of treatment),” he told on the sidelines of the discussion co-organised by Bangladesh Health Reporters’ Forum and BRAC.

TB is fully curable if properly treated. But in case of the MDR-TB, which is the outcome of mismanagement of TB treatment, the cure rate is 50 percent.

The MDR-TB treatment is also comparatively difficult as patients have to take drugs for two years, compared with six to nine months for general TB.

Bangladesh, however, showed that using a combination of available drugs in different doses can reduce the treatment course to nine months.

This study was again conducted in nine French-speaking African countries which showed similar results.

The study was presented at the 46th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Copenhagen in December last year when a lead investigator, Dr Arnaud Trebucq, told that their study was inspired by Bangladesh’s result.

The NTP officer Rahman told bdnews24.comthat with the new treatment plan, the total cost would be below $1000, compared with current price tag of over $4000.

The government distributes all TB drugs free as part of a national programme.

TB is one of the oldest diseases to infect humans and now ranks alongside HIV/AIDS as the top infectious killer worldwide.

The WHO says MDR-TB comprises three percent of new TB cases globally. In 2014, its estimated 480,000 such cases.

Bangladesh estimates the MDR-TB rate 6 per 100,000 people.