Tuberculosis continues to be a major public health concern in Armenia. The incidence of drug-sensitive TB is estimated at 41 new cases per 100,000 people per year, while 11 per cent of new cases and 47 per cent of previously treated cases are drug-resistant.
Around 10 per cent of MDR-TB patients have the extensively drug-resistant (XDR) form of the disease. The main challenge when treating MDR-TB patients is the length and toxicity of the regimen itself – it involves taking up to 20 tablets every day for two years, and months of painful daily injections.
For some patients, a port-a-cath is implanted to ease the twice-daily intravenous injections. Permanent hearing loss, suicidal depression and psychosis are among the side effects of the treatment, which is only successful for around half of MDR-TB patients and a quarter of those with XDR-TB.
Armenia was one of the first countries in the world to authorise the use of two new TB drugs, bedaquiline and delamanid, which promise to be less toxic and more effective.