Price for TB drug too high, unaffordable, MSF says

MSF is advocating for a target price of $500 per treatment course for drug-resistant TB.

Thursday February 25 2016

A TB patient wears a mask. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have expressed concern at the high price announced for new TB drug, delamanid. FILE PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

A TB patient wears a mask. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have expressed concern at the high price announced for new TB drug, delamanid. FILE PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP  

By LUCAS BARASA
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International medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have expressed concern over the high price announced for new tuberculosis (TB) drug, delamanid.

A Japanese pharmaceutical company, Otsuka, said that it would make delamanid available to some developing countries at a price of US$1,700 per treatment course.

Delamanid is one of only two new drugs to treat TB to become available in the last half a century, and is effective against the deadliest strains of tuberculosis that are resistant to many of the other drugs used to treat TB, including multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant TB.

Delamanid needs to be taken with several other drugs to effectively treat drug-resistant TB (DR-TB); the regimens, without delamanid, already cost between $1,000 – $4,500 per treatment course at the lowest prices available to developing countries, which is unaffordable for governments.

To help with widespread scale up of DR-TB treatment, the organisation is advocating for a target price of $500 per treatment course for drug-resistant TB, according to a statement from MSF, Kenya.

Countries that are eligible for funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) will be able to purchase delamanid for $1,700 per treatment course through the Global Drug Facility (GDF), a UN-based procurement mechanism for TB drugs, as long as the drug is registered for use in their country or the necessary import waivers have been put in place.

To date, Otsuka has registered delamanid in only four countries (Germany, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom), none of which has a high burden of DR-TB. The company should register delamanid in high DR-TB burden countries and in countries where clinical trials for the drug took place.

“Countries should start scaling up treatment for more people with drug-resistant TB using the most effective drugs available, but delamanid is neither affordable nor available in most countries today”, said Dr Grania Brigden, TB Advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign.

“The price for delamanid needs to come down to an affordable level, and Otsuka should also register delamanid quickly in all countries where the drug has been tested in clinical trials, as well as in countries with the highest burdens of drug-resistant TB. If people can’t access delamanid, this promising new drug will be effectively worthless,” he added.

It is estimated that up to two thirds of the nearly half a million people who acquire drug-resistant TB each year could benefit from delamanid; however, in the two years since the drug was approved, only 180 people have received this new treatment.

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