Kenya launches world’s first child-friendly TB drug

Tuesday September 27 2016

Sister Veronicah Wanjiru displays a message at the Mbungoni Catholic Clinic in Mombasa on February 26, 2016 that calls for the fight against tuberculosis (TB). FILE PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Sister Veronicah Wanjiru displays a message at the Mbungoni Catholic Clinic in Mombasa on February 26, 2016 that calls for the fight against tuberculosis (TB). Kenya has launched the first child-friendly TB drugs in the world. FILE PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By ELIZABETH MERAB

Kenya has become the first country in the world to launch new child-friendly drug for treating tuberculosis (TB).

The medicine is strawberry-flavoured and dissolves in water to make it easier for children to swallow.

The number of tablets given to children has also been reduced by half, from eight to four pills daily.

The Ministry of Health said the new drugs, to be rolled out countrywide by October 1, will be given to children depending on the child's weight.

“Before the mother was required to crush the medicine before giving it to the child and by doing so, at times you would find that not all the drug was administered,” said Robert Matiru from Unitaid, the key project funders.

About 7,000 children in Kenya have been diagnosed with TB, with the government spending about Ksh2 billion ($19.7 million) annually for treatment.

The flavoured regimen, known as a "fixed dose combination", will be available for free at all health facilities countrywide.

The tablets, which were developed through a partnership between the TB Alliance, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the US government, are the first to meet the dosage guidelines set by the WHO in 2010.

It is meant to improve drug regime adherence among children in the developing world.

“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 Director of Medical services Dr Jackson Kioko.