At least 1,000 people in China diagnosed with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis will receive treatment using a newly developed medication for free, it was announced on Sunday.
The new drug, Sirturo, was approved by the China Food and Drug Administration in 2016. It is now being used at 16 hospitals nationwide in a program led by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than 20 patients with multidrug-resistant TB have received the treatment since Feb 24, the first time the drug has been administered in China, according to Wang Bin, deputy head of disease control and prevention for the National Health Commission.
Sirturo is the first new medication for TB worldwide for 45 years, and it has already been given to more than 43,000 patients in 89 countries, according to its developer, Xi'an Janssen Pharmaceutical.
Asgar Rangoonwala, the company's president, said most patients are from South Africa and India, and 64 percent were cured of the disease.
The World Health Organization estimates China had 58,000 new cases of multidrug-resistant TB in 2016, but only 10 percent of those diagnosed received treatment.
Hu Ningning, deputy secretary-general of China Primary Health Care Foundation, said medications that can cure the illness should be covered by basic health insurance so more people can afford them.