New Hope for Children with TB

This blog was written by the communications team at TB Alliance as part of Global Health Council’s Member Spotlight SeriesGlobal Alliance for TB Drug Development (TB Alliance) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the discovery and development of better, faster-acting, and affordable tuberculosis drugs that are available to those who need them. TB Alliance is a 2018 Global Health Council member.

Each year, 1 million children get sick with tuberculosis (TB) and about 210,000 needlessly die. Those grim statistics translate to nearly 600 children dying on a daily basis.

TB Alliance and partners are working to solve this problem. Until recently, children didn’t have access to TB medicines in the proper doses or formulations. Care providers and parents crushed or chopped adult pills to approximate the right dose for children. This makes for a daily struggle—for six long months—and creates a guessing game of whether children receive the right dose. Ultimately, this approach can negatively impact adherence, outcomes and fuel the development of drug-resistant TB.

Improved drugs are solving this problem. TB Alliance has introduced new TB cures for children in the correct dose and child-friendly forms, and health systems around the world are working to ensure that they are available widely.

Here’s where we stand today:

1) More than 700,000 treatment courses have been ordered.
2) Close to 80 countries have adopted the improved medicines.
3) The improved medicines have been prequalified by the World Health Organization.
4) A major opportunity now exists to integrate childhood TB into maternal and child health efforts.

These new medicines are having a real-world impact. In Nairobi, three-year-old Chelsea was among the first in the world to be treated and cured with them. Read her story here.

Read more about the project to develop and launch these improved pediatric TB medicines in New Pathways for Childhood TB Treatment.

As we mark World TB Day on March 24, the global health community has some cause to celebrate. But there’s still work to be done. Drug-resistant TB is a growing threat, and today’s treatments are woefully inadequate. Treating drug-resistant TB in adults and children alike means thousands of often toxic drugs and hundreds of injections for 9 months to two years or even longer.

TB Alliance is developing new drug regimens to reshape the treatment landscape for every person with TB. Political momentum is beginning to build; events like the upcoming U.N. High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis in September present an opportunity for global leaders to make meaningful commitments to fund the research and development needed to bring about the drug, diagnostics and vaccines that can truly render TB a disease of the past.