Treatment of active pulmonary tuberculosis in adults: current standards and recent advances. Insights from the Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists

Pharmacotherapy. 2009 Dec;29(12):1468-81. doi: 10.1592/phco.29.12.1468.


Tuberculosis is a global pandemic, with 9 million new cases of the disease and approximately 2 million deaths each year. More than 98% of patients treated for tuberculosis in the United States between 1993 and 2007 had drug-susceptible strains. The standard treatment regimen for drug-susceptible tuberculosis has not changed in decades and was developed on the basis of empiric observations of different treatment regimens. Only recently has the veracity of the scientific basis for standard therapy been examined. The backbone of therapy is still isoniazid, rifampin, and pyrazinamide, although fluoroquinolones are being investigated as a replacement for isoniazid. Recent population pharmacokinetic studies have demonstrated the importance of individualized dosing of isoniazid, pyrazinamide, and rifampin. Isoniazid serum clearance differs depending on the patient's number of N-acetyltransferase 2 gene *4 (NAT2*4) alleles. Pyrazinamide serum clearance has been shown to increase with increases in body weight. Rifampin's volume of distribution, clearance, and absorption have wide between-patient and within-patient variability. Microbial pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic (PK-PD) indexes and targets to optimize microbial killing and minimize resistance have been identified for rifampin, isoniazid, pyrazinamide, and the fluoroquinolones. These PK-PD indexes suggest that different doses and dosing schedules than those currently recommended could optimize therapy and perhaps shorten duration of therapy. Efflux pump inhibition is also being investigated to enhance first-line antituberculosis drug therapy. Comorbid conditions such as diabetes mellitus and genetically determined iron overload syndromes have been associated with significantly worse patient outcomes. Therapy for these and other patient groups needs further improvement. These patient factors, the covariates for pharmacokinetic variability, and PK-PD factors suggest the need to individualize therapy for patients with tuberculosis in order to optimize outcomes and reduce the duration of therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Antitubercular Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antitubercular Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Comorbidity
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Humans
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / drug therapy*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / microbiology


  • Antitubercular Agents