New and Improved Drug Treatment for Tuberculosis

by Medindia Content Team on Sep 18 2007 3:24 PM

Bloomberg on Monday examined Bayer's experimental tuberculosis drug moxifloxacin, which could become the first new TB treatment developed in 30 years. Moxifloxacin, which would be sold under the brand name Avelox, could shorten treatment regimens and decrease the risk of developing drug-resistant strains of the disease, according to scientists.

Results from clinical trials of the drug, which already is used to treat pneumonia, will be presented at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, which begins in Chicago on Monday. According to Bloomberg, the drug could be approved to treat TB as early as 2011.

Charles DeGraw -- a health official in Louisiana who has used moxifloxacin experimentally -- said he and others are waiting in anticipation for the trial results. "All of us think this drug is going to be a huge benefit," he said.

Moxifloxacin works by attaching to DNA and preventing germs from distributing their genetic material, Martin Springsklee, vice president of global medical affairs for Bayer Healthcare, said. The drug's chemical structure is able to attach to both fatty and water molecules, which allows it to penetrate TB efficiently, Springsklee said.

It is unclear what the cost of moxifloxacin would be, according to Bloomberg. A two-week course of the drug currently costs about $200. Bayer executives said they cannot estimate what the cost of the drug would be as a TB treatment, but the company has agreed to make the drug available at "affordable" prices in developing countries, Bloomberg reports. Springsklee said that although Bayer has to "protect shareholder money," it also has a "moral obligation to ensure" the drugs are available to people who need them.

Research funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. government indicates that people who have TB could combine moxifloxacin with three other drugs to complete treatment in four months instead of six. According to Mel Spigelman, director of research and development for the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, about one-third of people undergoing treatment for TB stop their drug regimens during the final two months of treatment.

The TB Alliance will test four-month treatment regimens of moxifloxacin later this year, and Spigelman said he plans to see if the drug can be taken with other treatments to complete successfully a course of therapy in two or three months. Shorter treatment regimens also could lower the cost of treatment, according to Bloomberg. Standard TB treatment regimens that include the most effective and least expensive drugs cost about $8,162 per person in the U.S., according to CDC. A four-month regimen could reduce the cost to $6,536, the agency said.

Source-Kaiser Family Foundation