Principles for constructing a tuberculosis treatment regimen: the role and definition of core and companion drugs

A Van Deun, T Decroo, A Piubello, B C de Jong, L Lynen, H L Rieder

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Current World Health Organization guidelines for the formulation of treatment regimens for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) pay too little attention to the microbiological activity of anti-tuberculosis drugs. Here, we draw lessons from the pioneering work done on shorter MDR-TB treatment regimens and the current knowledge of the bactericidal and sterilizing properties of the drugs to inform the composition of treatment regimens for MDR-TB. We propose to reserve the term 'core drug' for the one drug in a regimen that contributes most to relapse-free cure. The core drug has both moderate to high bactericidal and sterilizing activity, is given throughout treatment, is well tolerated, and has no cross-resistance with the core drug used in the previous regimen. Currently used core drugs include rifampicin in the first-line 6-month regimen, and fourth-generation fluoroquinolones and bedaquiline in regimens for drug-resistant TB. All other drugs are 'companion drugs', used to avert treatment failure due to acquired drug resistance against the core drug. Some also help further reduce the risk of relapse. Moreover, toxic drugs should be avoided if there is an alternative. A regimen must always include the core drug, plus at least one companion drug with high bactericidal activity, a second bactericidal companion drug, plus two sterilizing companion drugs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)239-245
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Journal Article


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