The first patients in Kyrgyzstan to receive innovative drug regimen BPaL

KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation Kyrgyzstan (KNCV-KG), is partnering with the National Center of Phthisiology to implement the innovative short duration all-oral BPaL regimen developed by TB Alliance. 35-year-old mother of three Saikal* is one of the first TB patients in Kyrgyzstan to start the innovative BPaL regimen. The new treatment for pre-extensively-drug-resistant tuberculosis (Pre-XDR-TB) offers hope to patients like Saikal who suffer from side effects because BPaL is shorter and has no injections.

Saikal stated she has high hopes for the new treatment, “I started the treatment because I believe it will help me. I want to get better”. It is unclear to Saikal how and when she got infected with tuberculosis (TB).

Although Kyrgyzstan is a high drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) burden country, nobody among Saikal’s social group has had TB. She started her treatment in a hospital but quit after three months because of side effects. “I would take 16 pills every day, all at once, and feel dizzy and nauseous. I felt horrible so I signed an official refusal”, says Saikal. For a few months after stopping the treatment, Saikal turned to unconventional medicine. She started taking mole crickets, which are thought to be a natural treatment for TB in some countries. Saikal’s symptoms kept getting worse. By the time she was admitted to the specialized TB hospital in Kara-Balta, she couldn’t get upstairs without getting out of breath.

Saikal has been taking a new BPaL regimen for almost two weeks and is feeling significantly better already. “I used to wake up in the middle of the night coughing. Now I hardly cough during the day”, she says. She doesn’t feel dizzy after taking the pills and likes to go out for a walk. Saikal’s husband and 3 children live in another city and she can’t see them.

The BPaL regimen

The new drug regimen consists of 746 pills that need to be taken over the course of 6 to 9 months. This is much fewer drugs and shorter compared to 14,600 pills over 18 to 24 months with the current antituberculosis regimen. Duration of the current treatment and side effects are reasons why so many patients in Kyrgyzstan do not finish the treatment, and that contributes to the pre-XDR-TB and XDR-TB rates. An innovative regimen like BPaL, with a shorter time period and absence of painful injections, gives hope for a fast recovery and a world without TB.

*The name has been changed for privacy reasons.

KNCV has been fighting TB since its establishment in 1903. Over the past 117 years, the organization has acquired indispensable knowledge and experience in the field of effective TB control, resulting in pre-elimination in the Netherlands and significant contributions to global evidence generation, policy development and TB program implementation worldwide.

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Tuberculosis is still one of the major causes of preventable death in the world and claims over 4000 lives a day, leading to over 1,5 million deaths a year.

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