Tamil Nadu turns to local purchases to tide over TB drug stockouts

Centre’s last-minute communication over TB drugs puts health department in a spot

Updated - April 04, 2024 12:46 pm IST

Published - April 02, 2024 09:44 pm IST - CHENNAI

We currently have stock of drugs for nearly 10 days, says an official. File

We currently have stock of drugs for nearly 10 days, says an official. File

In the light of nation-wide stockouts of tuberculosis (TB) drugs, Tamil Nadu is working out ways to tide over the situation through local purchase of drugs. The Government of India’s communication to the State to manage locally for the next three months came in last week, putting the health department in a tight spot, official sources said.

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Officials in the health department said that they received a communication from GoI asking the State to manage locally for the next three months as there were delays in the procurement process. “We currently have stock of drugs for nearly 10 days, and have written to the Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation (TNMSC) regarding procurement of drugs. TNMSC has procedures to follow including rate contracts. We can manage the situation for a month or two if supply is delayed,” an official said.

TNMSC, on its part, will be able to take up procurement activities including floating tenders only after receiving clearance from the Election Commission of India as the Model Code of Conduct is in force, sources said. Health officials, while pointing out that supply of TB drugs was done by the GoI, said that TNMSC will be able to do planned procurement of TB drugs permanently for the State in the future if the GoI and State TB Cell arrive at a decision.

Shortage of drugs has left officials and doctors a worried lot. Concerns have been raised over such frequent disruptions in the supply chain and subsequent impact on patient care. Some drugs prescribed for both drug sensitive TB and resistant TB are facing short supplies.

Instead of quarterly indents of drugs, monthly indents are being done now, and in some places, 10-day supply of drugs are being provided, an official source said, adding: “If we were informed much earlier, we could have acted accordingly. The situation is dicey due to the last-minute communication.”

“With no supply from GoI, permission was granted for districts to make local purchases including from pharmacies, and funds for procurement were granted. The shortages developed gradually in both the first line and second line of drugs. What is of concern is that drugs are not available even in the market in some places, and if the delays in supply extends for another two to three months, we are worried that patient care services may get affected,” an official noted. Purchase of drugs from the open market also takes time, another official added.

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