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Medical News

Bayer Offers New Antibiotic With Promise in Fight on TB

October 18, 2005

Yesterday, Bayer Healthcare announced that it will allow its new antibiotic, moxifloxacin, to be tested against TB. If the medicine substantially shortens TB treatment, which typically lasts six months, the firm will sell millions of doses at low cost to poor countries.

The move is unusual because Bayer makes about $500 million a year now from moxifloxacin, and companies rarely test their best-selling antibiotics against TB or other diseases commonly found in the developing world for fear of hurting sales in rich countries. However, Bayer's initiative is part of a contract with the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, a public-private partnership. The clinical trials of moxifloxacin, involving thousands of patients in eight countries including Brazil and Zambia, are funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, CDC, the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership and the Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Kenneth G. Castro, director of TB elimination at CDC, said in his 12 years working on TB, Bayer's initiative is one of the most exciting advances he's seen. Doctors Without Borders, often critical of the pharmaceutical industry, also praised Bayer.

Four old antibiotics with expired patents -- isoniazid, ethambutol, rifampicin and pyrazinamide -- are the mainstays of current TB treatment. Patients typically take drug cocktails for six months. Substituting moxifloxacin for one of the old drugs has cut treatment time to four months in tests on mice, according to Castro.

Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, who treats TB patients in central Harlem and Durban, South Africa, said no new TB medication has been registered for 40 years, and one of the four drugs she prescribes for new patients clashes with an HIV/AIDS medication. Many of El-Sadr's patients have both diseases. "Every new TB drug is precious," she said. "That's why what Bayer is doing is a big deal."

Back to other news for October 18, 2005

Adapted from:
New York Times
10.18.05; Donald G. McNeil Jr.

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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