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First new tuberculosis drug in 40 years approved by FDA

The FDA on Monday approved a Johnson & Johnson tuberculosis drug known as Sirturo, the first medicine to fight the infection in more than 40 years.

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A California man is charged with non-compliance in his treatment for potentially deadly and highly contagious tuberculosis. (San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office/Courtesy)

The FDA on Monday approved a Johnson & Johnson tuberculosis drug known as Sirturo, the first medicine to fight the infection in more than 40 years.

The regulatory agency approved the pill for use with older drugs in order to fight a strain of tuberculosis that is difficult to treat and that has not responded to other medications, reported the Associated Press. The FDA did note, however, that Sirturo carries risks of potentially deadly heart problems and should be prescribed carefully by doctors.

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According to Medical News Today, multi-resistant tuberculosis is a form of the disease that does not respond to isonazid and rifampin, two of the four main antibiotics prescribed for the potentially deadly infection. Sirturo (generic name bedaquiline) is designed specifically for treating multi-resistant tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis is a highly infectious disease transmitted through the air, noted The New York Times. It usually affects the lungs, but can also attack other parts of the body, including the brain and kidneys. It is considered one of the world's most serious public health issues.

Around one-third of the world's population is estimated to be infected with the bacteria causing tuberculosis, according to the AP. The disease is rare in the US, but kills about 1.4 million people a year worldwide.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/130101/first-new-tuberculosis-drug-40-years-approved-fda