Mozambique rolled out a new easy- to-administer preventative drug for latent tuberculosis that hugely slashes costs and the pill burden for patients.
The rollout came on World Tuberculosis Day, which aims to raise awareness of the disease.
The fixed-dose combination therapy of three pills per week, taken over three months, is expected to simplify treatment and improve adherence.
TB preventive treatments have been around for decades, yet very few people have been taking it, discouraged by the burdensome number of pills, lengthy treatment period and side effects.
The treatment reduces the number of pills from nine to three per week for three months compared to the standard care that lasted anywhere between six and 36 months.
Mozambique is one of the world’s 12 high-burden TB countries and is launching the drug along with Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana and Zimbabwe.
“This programme is aimed at people living with HIV/AIDS, children under the age of 15, people who are at high risk of becoming infected with tuberculosis,” Mozambique’s Health Minister Armindo Tiago said at the launch.
“We want to allow greater adherence to treatment and greater efficiency in the fight against tuberculosis.”
One patient downed the pills at an event held at Independence Square in the capital Maputo.
“The regimen is shorter, so you don’t have to feel you have to be taking this endlessly, and (it) has less side effects,” Robert Matiru, director of programs at the global health initiative Unitaid, told AFP by phone.
“With fewer side effects you are more inclined to take and you know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Gavin Churchyard head of the Johannesburg-based Aurum Institute which is spearheading the project said the new treatment, which has seen a 70-percent price cut to $15 per treatment per patient, would hopefully help in the eradication of TB.
“It will be a very simple, affordable, scalable treatment that would be used to prevent TB” and with this “we have the tools to end this TB epidemic,” he said from South Africa.
The rollout was delayed by several months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mozambique’s Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario also attended the launch, stressing the need to ensure COVID-19 does not hamper ongoing TB screening, diagnosis and treatment measures.