Newly approved TB drug stirs controversy

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iol scitech jan 11 TB drug doc INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Dalene von Delft had MDR TB (Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis) but with the help of Bedaquiline she managed to get rid of it and is now TB free. PHOTOGRAPH: DAVID RITCHIE

Cape Town - The local medical industry is abuzz with the recent approval of the controversial new TB drug, bedaquiline. The little-tested drug recently received the nod of approval from the Medicine Control Council and may be the last hope for many.

Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutica’s bedaquiline is controversial because there is limited data on its safety, and there is some evidence that it raises the risk of potentially fatal heart problems.

Dr Dalene von Delft contracted multidrug resistant TB in 2010 after caring for patients infected with strains of drug resistant TB.

With the threat of lifelong deafness from the current TB treatment and an imminent end to her medical career, Von Delft was ready to try anything.

Access to bedaquiline in South Africa has so far been extremely limited with access only granted to the patients in clinical trials

“As a doctor, I knew the possible risks of the new treatment, but… I had to take the chance,” said Von Delft. She is now cured of TB.

Dr Claudio Marra of the TB Project SA says: “All drugs… have side effects. People die. This drug is less toxic than the one we are currently using.”

Marra believes the benefits of bedaquiline far outweigh the risks. - Cape Argus

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