Andrea Bussotti/MSF
TB dispensary in Gyumri Polyclinic #3, northern Armenia. Vardan Avetisyan, 60 years old, has Multidrug-Resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). He was diagnosed with TB 8 years ago. In 2013, he underwent surgery, his left lung was removed. Currently he has to take 13 pills daily for his treatment. <br> *** Local Caption *** Treatment options for patients with drug-resistant TB remain far short of what is needed. Treatments are long (up to 2 years), toxic (serious side-effects) and expensive. Furthermore, the cure rate is only 50%.
Bedaquiline, one of two new TB drugs to be developed in 50 years, is as yet only available for compassionate use, i.e., patients for whom most antibiotics are not effective. MSF has been administering a new treatment including bedaquiline to around thirty patients in Armenia since April 2013. Although we can not draw any definitive conclusions (at this point), several patients have shown significant signs of improvement and we have not observed any side effects associated with bedaquiline until now.
But, while compassionate use of this new drug gives cause for optimism to patients who have lost hope, it is not the solution for treating the hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide suffering from DR-TB. New, shorter, less toxic and cheaper treatments including bedaquiline and delamanid, the other new TB drug, need to be developed.