TB survivors welcome shorter TB treatment

Stanley Sibanda (L) with wife, welcomes shorter TB regimen

…as The Union announces research findings of 2 months regimen

By Catherine Murombedzi

For many, TB treatment can be cut from six to two months with regimens combining standard and repurposed drugs: Initial findings of Truncate-TB study presented on Friday 25 November 2022 revealed.

A promising study presented at The Union World Conference on Lung Health 2022, the TRUNCATE TB trial, has revealed that some people who have TB can be treated in as little as two months, as opposed to six months of treatment that has been the standard of care in most countries since the 1980s.

The rationale behind the TRUNCATE TB study, according to Erlina Burhan, a TB expert from the Faculty of Medicine Univeritas Indonesia, is that we are over-treating majority of people who have drug-susceptible(DS) TB (DS-TB) who would actually be cured before the 6-month mark, to prevent relapse in a minority of people who would need the long treatment regimen.

This eye-opening study has revealed that the standard six-month treatment is actually over-treating a lot of people who have TB, which is the world’s leading infectious killer.

According to the statement, the TRUNCATE-TB Trial is a randomised controlled trial conducted at 18 sites in five countries (Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, India, and Uganda) and coordinated from Singapore.

The trial investigates a treatment strategy comprising an initial 2-month treatment course (using regimens combining standard and repurposed drugs intended to boost regimen sterilising efficacy), followed by close monitoring and early retreatment of relapses. A total of 674 trial participants were recruited from from March 2018 to March 2022 from these 5 countries.

Trial participants were initially given eight weeks of treatment, with the option of extending treatment to 10 or further to 12 weeks, if they had persistent clinical disease after the eight-week treatment. If there was still active TB after that, participants were switched to the standard six-month treatment.

It was noted that the overall death rate was low and there was no difference in the death rate between the standard treatment arm and the TRUNCATE strategy arms.

TB survivors welcomed the good news set to change the national TB response.

“I am excited to hear of the shorter two months of treatment. It is welcome relief. It’s an achievement because it reduces pill burden,” said Patricia Padzura.

Patricia Padzura

“Looking at this research that shows that the 6 months treatment was over treating a patient, at 2 months of the effectively combined regimen, defaulting will be minimised,” added Padzura.

A community health educator from Dzivarasekwa, Harare was ecstatic to hear the news. She said the shorter treatment will make monitoring easier.

“Thanks to research and science, who would have ever imagined this?  Two months is very good, as it makes monitoring much easier for Health care workers and peer educators in the communities ” said Patricia Dzama, a community TB Champion from Dzivarasekwa, Harare.

Patricia Dzama

Stanley Sibanda, a community champion who volunteers at Dzivarasekwa Poly Clinic in Harare was pleased that the cost would go to other pressing needs.

“It is a good initiative as it will not only reduce the pill burden but time which the patient visits clinics for collection. This will be a major milestone indeed considering where we started. The cost too will be cut with funders able to channel the money to other pressing needs,” said Stanley Sibanda.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende