A Great Day in the Fight Against Tuberculosis

You’ve probably seen our list of 13 Stories that Will Drive the Global Agenda in 2013. #11 on was an item written by Jaclyn Schiff arguing that the potential FDA approval of Bedaquiline to treat multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis could be a game changer in the long fight against what is known as MDR-TB.

While the global health community has become increasingly focused on noncommunicable diseases, tuberculosis, an old foe, continues to threaten human health around the world. The World Health Organization’s latest global TB report shows some indications of progress, but not enough. However, a significant milestone could be reached soon, which might usher in early momentum in the fight against TB in 2013 and beyond.

Bedaquiline, an experimental drug used to treat drug-resistant TB, is currently being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration. Last month, an advisory panel put its confidence in the drug, saying that it appears to be safe and effective for the treatment of multidrug-resistant TB in combination with other drugs. The FDA is expected to go along with the advisory panel’s recommendation and approve the new drug, which would make it the first medication with a new action mechanism to treat TB in about 40 years.

Improved drugs to fight this disease are long, long overdue. But at least this gets the ball rolling.

It turns out Jaclyn’s post was prophetic: The US Food and Drug Administration has now given fast track approval to the drug to treat MDR-TB.  MDR-TB is among the most frightening diseases on the planet–and can be very, very expensive to treat. Any new technologies that help us treat and prevent the spread the spread of MDR-TB is a welcome development.