Victory for paediatric TB patients with unveiling of friendly drugs

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Black girl

My padlock was ruined. Mama Earnest would use it to crush the TB drugs that Earnest was taking. You would want to ask how old Earnest was. He was only 9 months old. 9 painful months. Earnest had TB. Over 9 tablets daily had to be crushed, dissolved, then forced down Earnest’s throat, leaving his clothes stained red with the pigment of the spills.

You see, it was not his fault to be born with HIV, neither was his mother’s fault. He had to take the whole course of TB medication for six months. Earnest fought like a champion. Unfortunately, he lost the battle.

Today when I see the Kenyan Ministry of Health announcing the launch of appropriately dosed, child-friendly tuberculosis (TB) medicines, I get exhilarated. This makes Kenya the first country in the world to roll out these products nationally.

The improved medicines are easier for caregivers to give and for children to take, and are expected to help improve treatment and child survival from TB.

Tuberculosis still remains a major killer of children. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 1 million children suffer from TB each year and 140,000 children die of this preventable, treatable and curable disease. In 2015, Kenya reported nearly 7,000 cases of TB in infants and children, with those under age five at greatest risk of having severe forms of TB and dying from the disease. Earnest numbered among the statistics in 2015.

Previously, caregivers like Mama Earnest, had to cut or crush multiple, bitter-tasting pills in an attempt to achieve the right doses for children. This made the six-month treatment journey difficult for children and their families, contributing to treatment failure and death from the disease.Who knows, whether he was deprived from the correct dosage due to the spills?

The treatments now being introduced are the first to meet the WHO’s guidelines for childhood TB treatment. They are not new drugs, but improved formulations that come in the correct doses, require fewer pills, are flavoured and dissolve in water.

The development of the medicines was overseen by TB Alliance, an international non-profit organization, and was funded by UNITAID and other partners.

Starting October 1, 2016, all children in Kenya who will be initiated on TB treatment will be given the improved formulation.

Children often get TB from infected persons in their environment. This can be at home, at school or in any other place where they spend their time. Children should be taken to the nearest health facility to receive a TB diagnosis if they show symptoms of TB. These are coughs, fever, night sweats, reduced playfulness, or if they fail to gain weight. If any member of the household is diagnosed with TB, all other household members should be tested for TB, especially children. TB testing and treatment is free at all public health facilities in Kenya.


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