Children suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) will now have access to child-friendly medicines as Kenya became the first country to roll out the new drugs on Tuesday.
The new combination treatment, known as fixed dose combination, has been made more palatable for children by incorporating strawberry flavours to make it sweet.
The drugs are also administered by dissolving in water to ensure that children get the correct dosage unlike before where health experts say the medicine was prone to either overdosing or under-dosing.
Previously, caregivers had to break or crush 10 bitter-tasting pills in order to achieve the ‘right’ daily doses, making the six-month treatment period tough for children thus resulting in non-compliance or even death.
“Some parents have been forced to mix the ‘githeri-like’ concoction of pills in a TB-infected child’s food to ensure compliance – but that uphill task is now long gone,” said Director of Medical Services Jackson Kioko during the launch of the new drugs in Nairobi.
The new treatments, according to the Ministry of Health, will be given for free in over 9,000 health facilities across the country beginning October 1.
The tablets, which were developed through a partnership between the TB Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US government, are the first to meet dosage guidelines set by WHO in 2010.
Three tablets, to be dissolved in 20ml of water, are administered in the first two months of treatment and two more in the remaining four months.
“The drug is not new, but will be an improved combination of existing TB treatments such as rifampicin, isoniazid and pyrazinamide, specifically designed for children,” said Dr Kioko.
TB is a bacterial infection that manifests itself like many paediatric illness and can be spread from an infected person to others through coughs or sneezes.
WHO data shows that of the over one million children suffering from TB annually, 140,000 die from the preventable and curable disease.
Last year, Kenya reported 81,518 cases of TB, of which 7,000 were infants and children.