SA scores new medicine worth millions – for free

A deal brokered with the health department guarantees free access but for how long?

Drugmaker Otsuka Pharmaceutical won’t charge South Africa for using its new tuberculosis (TB) drug in a pilot programme, but South Africa’s free deal is unlikely to last.

The drug, delamanid, is one of the first new TB medicines to be developed in 50 years. In unpublished research by international humanitarian organisation  Doctors Without Borders (MSF) delamanid has been shown to cut drug-resistant TB treatment times by two-thirds when used in combination with existing remedies, says MSF advocacy and communications officers in Swaziland Zanele Zwane.

Current treatments for drug-resistant TB can take up to two years and patients have to take handfuls of pills daily that put them at risk of deafness or psychosis. More than half of patients with the most extreme form of drug-resistant TB, also known as extensively drug-resistant TB, will die, according to University of Cape Town studies….more

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