Otsuka cracks tough TB cases with experimental drug

As drug-resistant cases of tuberculosis rage, Otsuka Holdings has impressed doctors with a developmental drug that has shown an ability to wipe out strains of the airborne bug that have immunity to existing treatments. But the Japanese drugmaker plans to proceed with caution in launching the new treatment.

Fearing that misuse of its experimental drug delamanid reduces its effectiveness over time, Otsuka aims to offer the med to doctors who know which cases of the lung disease call for the powerful new med, Bloomberg reported. It's not a blockbuster strategy for marketing the product, which has yet to gain regulatory approval, but the company prefers to have delamanid remain effective far into the future. 

A newly released study of delamanid, which could be the first new TB med in 40 years, has dazzled clinicians. It revealed that that 45.4% of patients on the experimental drug and standard meds showed no traces of the bacteria in their mucus after two months, besting the 29.6% of patients that achieved the same result after taking standard meds and placebo, Bloomberg reported.

The results appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine along with another study with alarming statistics about the rise of drug-resistant TB cases in China. One in 10 patients were found to have resistant forms of the disease in China, where more than 1 million new cases of the illness are diagnosed annually, Reuters reported. That study underscores the need for new treatments for TB, a disease that hits poor populations particularly hard.

After decades of neglect, TB drug research has found some deep-pocketed support from Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others that are fueling research of new treatments, according to Bloomberg's report. But Otsuka's decades-long effort in TB could finally pay dividends in the near-term as the company seeks rapid approval of its new med.

- read Bloomberg's article
- see Reuters' report

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