A NEW project to help children with tuberculosis (TB) is being trialled at the Port Moresby General Hospital which aims to make taking medication easier and more child-friendly.

The 12-month project involves new TB medication designed for children, including medication that is dissolvable, better tasting and requires children to take fewer pills each day.

Australia has provided K542,000 toward the pilot project which will be used to purchase and distribute child TB medication and to develop protocols for roll out across the country.

Speaking at the launch of the project, Australian High Commission Counsellor for Health and HIV, Christine Sturrock said currently in PNG child-friendly TB drugs are not available.

“Children take medications designed for adults that are difficult to swallow, need to be cut in half or crushed, and have an unpleasant taste.

“The treatment for TB takes at least six months with children required to take multiple pills daily so any means of making this process easier and better adapted to children’s needs and tastes, is welcome,” said Ms Sturrock.

About 7,000 children contract TB every year in PNG and about 10 per cent of them may die from the disease and many more are left with permanent conditions like chronic breathing difficulties or brain damage.

This does not need to be the case because TB is curable. Effective treatments are available but do not always reach those who need it the most, especially children.

Dr Henry Welch, who is a paediatrician at the Port Moresby General Hospital, said:

“Childhood TB has seen little attention in the past so finally having child-friendly TB medications and approaches, is a big step in the right direction.

“This project will combine child-friendly medications in addition to other activities to help children with TB. We expect to see a significant increase in children taking their required medications regularly and eventually completing their TB treatment successfully,” Dr Welch said.

The roll out of the project, an essential component of the national fight against TB, is led by the PNG Paediatric Society, in partnership with the World Health Organization, National Department of Health, NCD Health, Port Moresby General Hospital, the Baylor College of Medicine Texas Children’s Hospital Program and Exxon Mobil.