Govt rolls out stronger TB drug for children

Nov 06, 2017

The new drug is expected to significantly improve treatment outcomes among child TB patients.


Children suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) have started receiving a stronger and more user-friendly drug for treating the expected to improve treatment outcomes.

The new drug has a sweet taste and it quickly disperses in liquid, making it easier for caregivers to give to child TB patients.

Dr Frank Mugabe, the head of the National TB and Leprosy Programme (NTLP), told New Vision on Monday that the new drug was expected to significantly improve treatment outcomes among child TB patients.

"The drug combination is the same, but much stronger and effective. It can dissolve easily in water and it has been sweetened to make it easier for children to take," Mugabe explained.

According to Mugabe, the contents of the previous TB drug have not changed, except for a higher concentration of one of the drug - Rifampicin (from 50ml to 75ml).

It comes in a fixed dose combination of rifampicin, isoniazid and pyrazinamide, given separately with a fourth drug (Ethambutol) for the first two months, followed by four months of rifampicin and Isoniazid.

A consignment of the new drug was shipped to Uganda in August and it was later distributed to health facilities across the country for two months.

TB is a bacterial infection spread through inhaling tiny droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person. It is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide.

Out of about 90,000 new cases of TB recorded every year in Uganda, about half of them are children, according to statistics from the ministry of health.

A standard dose for children (those below the age of 14) suffering from TB takes six months and the age group is difficult to monitor, leading to low treatment outcomes.

Globally, over 10 million people contract the infection every year and Uganda is one of the 22 high TB burden countries in the world. About half of all the TB patients in Uganda are HIV positive.

The World Health Organisation estimates that two billion people (one third of the world's population) are infected with the bacteria that causes TB.

Studies have linked the disease to economic devastation and the cycle of poverty and illness in families, communities and even entire countries that are endemic.

The average dose for the new drug will cost $40 (about sh160,000) but the costs are far higher for those suffering from multi-drug resistant TB. Treatment for TB is free of charge at all public health facilities.

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