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Study Finds Three-Month TB Treatment Regimen Just As Effective As Standard Longer Course

“Health officials on Monday celebrated a faster treatment for people who have tuberculosis but aren’t infectious, after investigators found a new combination of pills knocks out the disease in three months instead of nine,” the Associated Press/Seattle Times reports (Stobbe, 5/16).

According to a study, which was presented at a medical meeting on Monday, patients with latent TB “who took a combination of two drugs just 12 times over three months fared as well as those who received the standard treatment that requires 270 daily doses,” Reuters reports (Berkrot, 5/17). “In the study, begun 10 years ago, researchers enrolled 8,053 people with latent TB, most living in the U.S. and Canada, though some were in Brazil and Spain. Half were selected to receive conventional daily isoniazid treatment for nine months and half received a combination of isoniazid and rifapentine weekly for 12 weeks,” the Los Angeles Times notes. “In the 33 months of follow-up, seven of those receiving the combination therapy developed TB, compared with 15 of those receiving isoniazid alone, coauthor Dr. Timothy Sterling of Vanderbilt University reported at the American Thoracic Society International Conference in Denver,” according to the newspaper (Maugh, 5/17).

“New, simpler ways to prevent TB disease are urgently needed, and this breakthrough represents one of the biggest developments in TB treatment in decades,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden said in a statement, Reuters reports. CDC sponsored the study (5/17). According to a CDC press release, “Additional studies will likely be needed before this new regimen can be recommended in countries with a high incidence of TB, especially those with high HIV prevalence and where the risk of TB re-infection is greater,” because of interactions between some HIV medications and rifapentine (5/16).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.