For patients in Armenia who did not respond to the treatment available for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) there were simply no more treatment options before 2013. That meant a patient would end up in the street, in a palliative care center, or at home, waiting to die. But some companies allow the use of new drugs under the compassionate use program, meaning that trials have not ended but early studies show some encouraging results. Bedaquiline is one of the drugs. It is the first new drug to treat tuberculosis in 50 years.
The fact that 250 patients are being prescribed this drug on compassionate grounds, a drug that is not even on the market yet, illustrates the gross inadequacy of existing treatments for MDR-TB.
Current treatment regimens combine as many as 8 antiobiotics and require constant adjustments, depending on how effective they are and on the health of the patient. Treatment is often ineffective and the side effects can be serious: nausea, fatigue, deafness, psychosis, and organ failure to name a few.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) treated nearly 30,000 TB patients in 2013 in 90 projects around the world.