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US Govt supports introduction of new TB drug to PNG

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is working with partner organisations to introduce a new drug into Papua New Guinea called bedaquiline, the first new drug for tuberculosis in over 45 years.

The USAID through funding provided to FHI360 and the World Health Organization is working with the National Department of Health (NDoH) to host a series of trainings to help PNG’s doctors safely introduce bedaquiline.

Senior Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis Technical Advisor Dr Anh Innes at the USAID Bureau for Global Health in Washington D.C. has returned to PNG to oversee USAID’s donation of bedaquiline and provide technical assistance for the NDoH, specifically the Pharmaceutical Services Standards Branch (PSSB).

“Our main strategy for the safe introduction of bedaquiline is called pharmacovigilance, which is the science of early detection and monitoring of adverse effects,” she said.

“When adverse events happen when you take a medicine, you want to be able to find them quickly and manage them effectively.”

As well as supporting the safe introduction of bedaquiline, USAID and the NDOH PSSB are also using that as a catalyst to build the foundation for pharmacovigilance for all drugs here in PNG.

In Dr. Innes’ three previous visits, she carried out trainings on pharmacovigilance for bedaquiline for physicians in 12 provinces in the country.

“So this time, we’re focusing on working with the PSSB to roll out the ‘backbone’ for pharmacovigilance through the provincial Medicines and Therapeutics Committee (MTC). The first stage of the roll out is happening at Gerehu Clinic this week,” Dr. Innes said.

The PSSB will host a series of MTC trainings that will take place in provinces and hospitals throughout the country.

FHI360 Country Director Daniel Tesfaye added that USAID has donated 85 courses of bedaquiline, distributed mainly to Daru Hospital and the Port Moresby General Hospital as they care for high numbers of drug-resistant TB patients.

“It’s a very good contribution to the country to ensure that people who have multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) get the best treatment,” Mr Tesfaye said.

“Besides that, USAID and FHI360 are working with PSSB to ensure that adverse events are actually registered in the global system so that PNG can become a full member of the World Health Organization’s Uppsala Monitoring Center.”

Dr. Innes gave a Grand Rounds lecture at UPNG’s School of Medicine on Tuesday July 25 at 4pm on Drug-resistant tuberculosis: Progress toward elimination.

The Grand Rounds are lectures given on a regular basis by UPNG faculty members every Tuesday.

Dr. Innes’ lecture presented key developments for drug-resistant TB control from the past decade.

Last October, Ambassador Catherine Ebert-Gray donated laboratory and clinical equipment, worth K270,000, to Daru hospital.

These are needed to fight the spread of both MDR-TB and HIV/AIDS in PNG.

These machines are helping doctors to provide quality diagnostics to their patients, and will enhance the ability to monitor for TB and HIV.
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