A “game-changing” combination pill has been found to dramatically shorten the time it takes to treat patients with tuberculosis (TB) it was announced at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne. Results from a phase IIb trial found the drug — dubbed PaMZ — killed the TB bacterium at a far faster rate than standard therapy. The regimen is also less toxic than current treatments, and much more affordable.
TB is the leading killer among people living with HIV, resulting in one-fifth of all HIV-related deaths. Up until now, TB-HIV co-infection has been problematic to treat as therapies for the two conditions are incompatible due to side effects (rifampin, in particular, reacts extremely negatively with antiretroviral drugs for HIV). The PaMZ regimen comprises of two new drugs — Pa-824 and moxifloxacin —alongside an existing treatment, pyrazinamide.
Standard TB treatment can last up to two years and involve such drastic side-effects as deafness. The bacterium that causes TB also grows increasingly resistant to existing drugs. Projected to be a once-daily oral treatment, it is hoped that PaMZ will offer a simpler approach to treating TB and help save millions of lives. (TB is second only to HIV/AIDS as the world’s greatest killer; in 2012 1.3 million people died of the disease.)
The PaMZ findings were presented at an AIDS 2014 symposium by the TB Alliance. Its president, Dr Mel Spigelman (pictured), said: “Whether you survive tuberculosis, or a TB and HIV co-infection, depends very much on the care that is available and access to the very best treatment.”
Provided adequate funding is secured, PaMZ will advance to a global phase III clinical trial by the end of the year. The trial will include 1,500 people, including about 300 PLHIV. Top-line trial results are expected in 2017.
BY CHRISTOPHER KELLY