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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.'

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
20 mins ago - Economy & Business

Trump blocks banks from limiting loans to gun and oil companies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big banks are no longer allowed to reject business loan applicants because of the industry in which they operate, according to a new rule finalized on Thursday by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Wall Street has curtailed its exposure to industries like guns, oil and private prisons, driven by both public and shareholder pressures. This new rule could reverse that trend.

Former FDA commissioner: "Reliable drug supply is absolutely critical"

Axios' Caitlin Owens and former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan. Photo courtesy of Axios Events

Having a reliable supply of pharmaceutical drugs throughout America will be "absolutely critical" to boosting affordability in health care during the Biden administration, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Mark McClellan said at a virtual Axios Event on Friday.

The big picture: McClellan, who served under President George W. Bush, says drugs having limited supply and limited competition leads to elevated pricing. He considers drug supply to be a national security and public health issue.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Americans are still spending money

Source: Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans spent more money at stores and restaurants in 2020 than they did in 2019 — even in the face of a devastating global pandemic that shut down broad sectors of the economy.

Why it matters: The monthly retail sales report this morning came in well below expectations, and showed consumer spending falling on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Total expenditures were still higher in December 2020 than they were a year previously, however.

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