TB Alliance`s new Peer-to-Peer Learning for Innovative Cures (PeerLINC) Knowledge Hub launched today in Manila, with funding from the Australian Government through the Partnerships for a Healthy Region initiative. PeerLINC, operating in partnership between TB Alliance and the Tropical Disease Foundation, Inc. (TDF), and in close collaboration with the Department of Health, Philippines, will help countries implement best practices in the treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) to help speed the worldwide programmatic implementation of innovative, more effective treatments for the disease, starting with the World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended six-month, all-oral BPaL/M regimens, composed of the antibiotics bedaquiline (B), pretomanid (Pa), and linezolid (L), with or without moxifloxacin (M).

PeerLINC will provide practical training and technical assistance to countries to support this objective, via experts from the Philippines and the Department of Health, including Lung Center of the Philippines and the National TB Reference Laboratory (NTRL). The Philippines has successfully and rapidly deployed new treatments through participation in TB Alliance`s Leveraging Innovation for Faster TB Treatment (LIFT-TB) initiative.

“TB Alliance works to minimize the gap between research and access, ensuring people anywhere in the world can have access to new treatments as soon as possible, maximizing the number of lives and livelihoods saved,” said Sandeep Juneja, Senior Vice President of Market Access at TB Alliance. “PeerLINC will make training and knowledge on new treatments available swiftly and efficiently to ensure their rapid adoption and roll out. We are proud to launch PeerLINC in the Philippines with DOH and TDF and establish the first Knowledge Hub on the introduction of new DR-TB regimens, and we are grateful for the support of Australia in helping make this a reality.”

“It is important for the Philippines to share our knowledge and experience in using the BPaL/M regimens,” said Dr. Mamel Quelapio, TDF Board of Trustees member and Programmatic Implementation Lead at PeerLINC. “DOH`s leadership through the Disease Prevention and Control Bureau in partnership with TDF and TB Alliance in the LIFT-TB initiative has led to improved outcomes and treatment experiences for people. We are eager to help new treatments reach far and wide.”

The BPaL/M regimens combine the antibiotics bedaquiline (B), pretomanid (Pa), linezolid (L) with or without moxifloxacin (M). The BPaL regimen was first clinically studied by TB Alliance and the BPaL/M regimens are now recommended by WHO as the standard of care treatment for the vast majority of people with DR-TB. Prior to the initial study of the BPaL regimen, global treatment success rates for DR-TB were less than 50% and treatment options were limited, expensive, toxic, and lengthy – requiring individuals to take more than 14,000 pills over the course of treatment, which could last from nine months to two years or longer. Data to date reveals treatment success rates of 90% or higher with BPaL/M, in addition to reduced treatment duration and approximately 95% lower pill burden.

TB Alliance`s LIFT-TB initiative, which is co-funded by GDEF/KOICA, the South Korean Development agency, helped accelerate implementation of the regimen in the PhilippinesIndonesiaKyrgyzstanMyanmarUkraineUzbekistan, and Vietnam. Interim data from these countries shows an average success rate of 92.5%, with the Philippines program reporting a 98% cure rate. Several key high-burden countries around the world, including the early adopting LIFT-TB countries, are now rolling out BPaL/M in their national programs. However, some countries have moved more slowly. Leveraging a group of experts and the experience garnered from those who have rapidly and successfully implemented the BPaL/M regimens, PeerLINC will focus on assisting other countries in doing the same.

“In the Philippines, the new regimen exceeded all expectations,” said Dr. Irene Flores, Medical Officer of the Jose B. Lingad Memorial Medical Center and Head of PeerLINC. “Every country with drug-resistant TB can benefit from widespread implementation of the best available TB treatment. With BPaL/M, we see a path toward transforming DR-TB treatment for everybody, anywhere in the world.”

“I tried everything before I was given BPaL as part of the research program,” said Joegene Mangilaya, a participant from the Philippines who was treated with the BPaL regimen. “I was losing hope that I`d be cured, but shortly after I started on this new regimen, my body felt stronger and I had a new hope for my health and future. It is important to speed the availability of life-saving new therapies everywhere they are needed – the work of PeerLINC will help save lives.”

PeerLINC will offer support such as advice, assistance, training materials, tools, guides, and other materials to TB programs, clinicians, lab specialists, and community organizations, all delivered through peer-to-peer learning models. Trainings will be provided in-person in the Philippines or in the beneficiary country or remotely through virtual meetings. The expert team from PeerLINC will continue to guide countries after trainings, as they work to implement the regimens. A delegation from Peru is scheduled to visit PeerLINC in April 2024 and will be the first to receive training on BPaL/M from PeerLINC and its partners in the DOH.

“We are excited to visit the PeerLINC Knowledge Hub and work with experts from the early implementers of the short, highly effective treatments for drug-resistant tuberculosis,” said Dr. Valentina Alarcón, Executive Director at the Directorate of Tuberculosis Prevention and Control – MINSA Peru. “The communities affected by resistant tuberculosis in Peru deserve the best possible experiences and treatment schemes and we are taking measures to access the BPaL and BPaL/M regimens and make them available to people throughout Peru in a timely and rapid manner. Our experience with PeerLINC will help us achieve those goals.”