Child-friendly TB drugs launched

For the first time, child-friendly TB drugs for first-line medication in a fixed-dose combination was launched by TB Alliance, UNITAID and WHO at the 46th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Cape Town, South Africa, on Wednesday. These drugs, which meet the WHO’s revised dosage guidelines of 2010, are meant for children weighing less than 25 kg.

The fixed-dose drugs are already available and countries can place an order, which can take 2-3 months for delivery, says Cherise Scott, head of the paediatric programmes at TB Alliance, Geneva.

The Mumbai-based Macleods Pharmaceuticals is the only company manufacturing the child-friendly drugs. The medicines will cost $15.54 for the six-month course of treatment. The availability of child-friendly TB drugs of correct dosages will increase drug adherence and thereby reduce acquired drug resistance. According to the WHO, each year, at least 1 million children become ill with TB.

Since the fixed-dose combinations come in a dissolvable form, tablets no longer need to be crushed. Instead, the required number of paediatric tablets can be dissolved in water. The tablets are flavoured, thus making it easier for children.

In the absence of fixed-dose combination drugs of correct dosages, children were typically treated with multiple pills intended for adults. The adult drugs had to be crushed or split to achieve an appropriate dose for a child. Crushing medicines often led to imprecise dosing. Crushing also makes the drugs bitter to taste, making it all the more difficult to administer to young children.

Published in The Hindu on December 3, 2015