South Africa’s department of health on Monday became the first one in the world to announce rolling out a new and much more tolerable drug to fight multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).
Up until now‚ injectables have been used – but they are notorious for their vicious side effects.
It was announced that the new drug‚ bedaquiline‚ would replace current treatment regimens for adolescents and adults‚ from the start of their treatment.
Dr Norbert Njeka‚ a director in the department of health‚ confirmed the mass-scale up to TimesLIVE.
Njeka said that those provinces not yet equipped for the roll-out “will be capacitated to do so”‚ while South Africa being the “first country to take this decision” arose from the fact that it has been the first country to “see the mass benefits of the new drug”.
Up until now‚ the new drug had been rolled out in small pockets across the country‚ but this scale-up is likely to reduce the burden of the disease exponentially.
Each year‚ about half a million people contract MDR-TB across the globe‚ and South Africa’s carries a high burden with 19‚000 of those.
Doctors Without Borders released a statement saying that the organisation “applauds the South African National Department of Health” for being the “first country in the world to take this bold step aimed at scaling up access to an effective new drug‚ making MDR-TB treatment more tolerable‚ and reducing the devastating impact of side effects caused by the injectable agents”.