Inherent weakness of the State-run TB control programme and lack of awareness among patients are the prime reasons

The growing instance of resistance to TB drugs among patients has become a major public health concern in the State, which the health authorities here are finding it difficult to deal with. By their own admission, officials maintain that cases of drug resistant TB are steadily on the rise.

Prime reason for the rise in drug resistant TB is the inherent weakness of the State-run TB control programme and lack of awareness among patients. TB experts said that there has been a failure to ensure that patients have complied with and completed the whole course of TB treatment properly, which usually lasts for six months.

“There is no mechanism to supervise and make sure that the TB drugs are taken duly, based on the regimen. Patients invariably miss the course and then the problem starts. We have raised these problems with the higher ups and these issues will be addressed in the State-run TB control programmes,” says professor, pulmonary medicine, Osmania General Hospital, K. Subhakar.

In AP, the prevalence of drug resistance is two to three per cent among new TB cases and between 12 and 17 per cent among patients who are already undergoing TB treatment. In fact, according to a host of estimates, senior doctors suggest that there could be 60,000 to 70,000 drug resistant TB patients in India. Officially, as per the figures available as of December 2013 with State TB officials, 37, 395 drug resistant TB suspects were tested of which 4, 296 were diagnosed and 3,647 patients were put on treatment.

So what does a common man do to avoid getting drug resistant TB? “If persons are diagnosed, then they should meticulously follow the regimen prescribed by the doctor. In State-run TB control programme, a special box containing all the drugs required for TB treatment for each patient are kept with local health care worker. All that the patient needs to do is to stick to the schedule,” says Dr. Subhakar. The problem is that there is always shortage of TB drugs, lack of labs, slow diagnostic tools, inadequate management of treatment and lack of trained personnel. “If patients miss out taking TB drugs even for a week, they carry high risk for becoming resistant to TB drugs. So, compliance is very important and that’s where the TB control programme is failing,” the doctor says.