Child-friendly Tuberculosis (TB) medicine now available in Kenya

As a parent who has taken children for those many vaccines within the first year of life, I sometimes wish they had better ways of immunizing newborns. The most unnerving ones are the double thigh injections that bring about fever.

Tuberculosis still remains a major killer of children. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 1 million children suffer from TB each year and 140,000 children die of this preventable, treatable and curable disease. In 2015, Kenya reported nearly 7,000 cases of TB in infants and children, with those under age five at greatest risk of having severe forms of TB and dying from the disease.

Previously, caregivers had to cut or crush multiple, bitter-tasting pills in an attempt to achieve the right doses for children. This made the six-month treatment journey difficult for children and their families, contributing to treatment failure and death from the disease.

The Kenya Ministry of Health today announced the launch of appropriately dosed, child-friendly tuberculosis (TB) medicines, making Kenya the first country in the world to roll out these products nationally. The improved medicines are easier for caregivers to give and for children to take, and are expected to help improve treatment and child survival from TB.

The treatments now being introduced are the first to meet the WHO’s guidelines for childhood TB treatment. They are not new drugs, but improved formulations that come in the correct doses, require fewer pills, are flavoured and dissolve in water.

Starting October 1, 2016, all children in Kenya who will be initiated on TB treatment will be given the improved formulation. “Childhood TB is a problem that can be solved when we choose to act,” said Dr Enos Masini, Head of Kenya’s National Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Lung Disease Program during the launch earlier today.

Children often get TB from infected persons in their environment. This can be at home, at school or in any other place where children spend their time. Children should be taken to the nearest health facility to receive a TB diagnosis if they have a cough, fever, night sweats, reduced playfulness, or if they fail to gain weight. If any member of the household is diagnosed with TB, all other household members should be tested for TB, especially children. TB testing and treatment is free at all public health facilities in Kenya.

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