Aug 15, 2019

FDA approves new cure for deadly strain of drug-resistant TB

A returning patient provides his fingerprint for a biometrics tracking system at an operation ASHA tuberculosis treatment center in 2011, in New Delhi, India. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved Pretomanid Tablets, when used alongside 2 other antibiotics, to treat an extremely drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis.

Why it matters: "Tuberculosis has now surpassed AIDS as the world’s leading infectious cause of death," the New York Times reports. The new drug cured 89% of 107 patients with extensively drug-resistant TB after 6 months, when used in combination with antibiotics bedaquiline and linezolid, the FDA said.

What's new: Before the FDA approved this combination therapy, the most common treatment for this type of tuberculosis required patients to take around 30 pills a day plus sometimes daily injections for at least 18 months. This new treatment lowers that dose to 5 pills/day over 6 months for most patients.

  • A spokesperson for the nonprofit TB Alliance, which submitted Pretomanid Tablets to the FDA based on 19 clinical trials, said "it'd be a stretch" to describe previous drug regimens for highly resistant forms of tuberculosis as effective treatment.
  • "We've seen some incremental improvement, but until now, there hasn't been anything I would call a reliable cure," the spokesperson said.

The big picture: XDR-TB, or extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, is found in over 127 countries. Tuberculosis is especially prevalent in India, South Africa and China. To a lesser extent, Brazil and Russia also have significant TB problems.

  • Tuberculosis is responsible for 1 in 3 HIV deaths, per 2018 data from the World Health Organization.
  • "It happens to be a disease that kills the poorest of the poor," a TB Alliance spokesperson said.

The bottom line: Although the new drug is now approved only in the U.S., FDA approval is a signal to the rest of the world that this treatment has validity.

Go deeper: Experts say eliminating TB is possible this generation, but funding is paramount

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct 'XDR-TBD' to 'XDR-TB.'

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CDC "concerned" about drug-resistant Salmonella

A different strain of Salmonella (red) invades cultured human cells. Photo: Media for Medical/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday it is "concerned" about a new multidrug-resistant strain of Salmonella that killed 2 and sickened 255 people from June 2018 to March 2019.

Why it matters: Experts have sounded the alarm over growing antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the U.S. and globally.

Go deeperArrowAug 23, 2019

The Trump-Pelosi mind meld on drug costs

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Striking a big, bipartisan deal on drug prices is one of President Trump’s last opportunities before the election to make good on a sweeping campaign promise — and Trump himself is the biggest X factor.

The big picture: On policy, Trump and Democrats are aligned — but the Dems may not want to make a deal just before the election. On politics, Trump and Republicans are in agreement — but the drug industry is working overtime to pull rank-and-file Republicans back into line.

Go deeperArrowSep 8, 2019

Health labs identify chemical linked to vaping-related illness

Photo: Lisa Ducret/Getty Images

State and federal health authorities are focusing in on a single chemical as they try to determine the cause of vaping-related illnesses, according to the Washington Post. The compound turned up in marijuana products that patients had used.

Why it matters: Identifying the common chemical gives health officials a potential thread to follow to pinpoint the cause and find the right treatment for a severe pulmonary illness that has killed 2 people and may have afflicted at least 215 more.

Go deeperArrowSep 5, 2019