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Drugs companies slash cost of treating resistant TB

作者:东门冶    发布时间:2019-03-06 06:19:01    

By Andy Coghlan In a bid to stamp out drug-resistant tuberculosis before it sweeps the globe, the World Health Organization has secured cheap access to the only effective drugs, New Scientist has learned. After months of detailed talks, manufacturers have agreed to slash their prices by between 60 and 90 per cent when supplying poor countries. The deal comes just months after the industry’s climbdown over HIV drugs and patents in South Africa. Only 1.5 per cent of TB cases worldwide are multidrug-resistant. But resistant TB is spreading rapidly in hot spots such as Russia. Resistance can evolve when patients stop taking drugs before the end of the course – a common occurrence in the squalid jails of the former Soviet Union. The pills needed to treat regular TB cost just $10 for an entire course. But the drugs needed to treat a resistant strain cost as much as $15,000 per patient – far more than poor nations can afford. Pharmaceuticals giant Eli Lilly makes two of the five drugs – capreomycin and cycloserine. While vials of capreomycin normally cost up to $29 each, the company is selling them to the WHO for as little as $1 each. Eli Lilly will decide whether to make the pilot scheme permanent after the first 1000 patients have been treated. “We’ll have to see how it moves forward,” says a company spokesman. A third TB drug, para-amino salicylic acid, is also to be sold to poor countries at a discount price by Jacobus Pharmaceutical, a family-based firm in New Jersey. “It’s a big disease, and not everyone cares like we do about doing the right thing,” says Laura Jacobus, one of the company’s founders. Ofloxacin and ciprofloxacin, the two other drugs, will also be supplied cheaply, says Marcos Espinal, the scheme’s architect at the WHO. The companies that will make them have not yet been named. The scheme will only be successful if patients and doctors use the drugs properly. If they don’t, even worse resistance could develop. “We’re taking a huge financial loss doing this,” says Jacobus. “We must be really careful it’s not mismanaged.” This won’t be easy. Some of the drugs have to be injected daily for two years. Patients will have to be monitored by nurses in hospitals to ensure they comply. The companies say they’ll pull out if the WHO fails to follow this strict regime. So far, says Espinal, the offer has been taken up in Peru, the Philippines and in Tomsk and Oriel, two badly hit regions of Russia. Further programmes have been approved in Latvia and Estonia, where resistant TB is also widespread. For more on TB,

 

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