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US government introduces new drug to help save lives of TB patients in Tajikistan

February 03, 2017

Acting Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States to Tajikistan Lucy Jilka yesterday (January 31) joined the First Deputy Minister of Health and Social Protection of Population of Tajikistan Saida Umarzoda, national health leadership, physicians, TB doctors, and stakeholders to celebrate the introduction of bedaquiline to Tajikistan. This is the first new drug approved for the treatment of tuberculosis (TB) since the 1960s.

According to the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe, U.S. company Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, created bedaquiline to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis and protect public health. Janssen is donating 30,000 courses of this life-saving new TB drug to qualified countries. The United States, through USAID’s Office of Global Health, is partnering with Janssen to introduce bedaquiline in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan is on the list of countries with a high prevalence of multi-drug resistant TB, and has growing numbers of patients with extensively drug-resistant TB, for which there was no effective treatment available within the country. Bedaquiline, also called by its brand name Sirturo, offers a better chance to cure patients with these forms of TB and will help reduce the transmission of drug-resistant tuberculosis in the community.

USAID is leading the free distribution of this lifesaving medication through its Bedaquiline Donation Program in collaboration with Tajikistan’s Republican Center for TB Control, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Population, and other partners to introduce the new drug, build capacity to expand treatment, and pilot new shorter treatment options for drug-resistant tuberculosis. A key international partner in these efforts is the Challenge TB Project, which is implemented by the Dutch TB Foundation, KNCV.

Bedaquiline received accelerated approval for use in the United States in December 2012, and it is used to treat Americans with drug-resistant TB. In Tajikistan, per World Health Organization recommendations, fifty patients were initially enrolled in treatment courses containing bedaquiline, with one hundred and fifty more to begin treatment during 2017. The progress of treatment will be monitored by trained specialists at designated treatment centers.

The Challenge TB Project is one of the many assistance projects made possible by the American people through USAID. Over the last 25 years, the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe has provided more than $1.8 billion in programs that support Tajikistan’s security, democratic institutions, social sector, and economic growth. In February, Tajikistan and America will celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations.

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