India faces TB drug shortage, no shortage in Tamil Nadu

While drug supply from Centre was adequate during the pandemic, it has not kept pace after reporting of cases reached pre-COVID levels, says T.N. expert

Updated - August 23, 2023 09:44 pm IST

Published - August 23, 2023 07:54 pm IST - CHENNAI

“Tamil Nadu will not face any shortage for the next two months.” File image for representation.

“Tamil Nadu will not face any shortage for the next two months.” File image for representation. | Photo Credit: R. Ragu

India is facing an acute shortage of tuberculosis drugs, including medicines used for treating drug-resistant TB such as Linezolid, Clofazimine, and Cycloserine.

Shortage of medicines used for treating drug-sensitive and drug-resistant TB began last year and has been continuing across India for about a year now. It started with shortage of Rifampicin used for treating drug-sensitive TB and now includes drug-resistant TB drugs too.

“The Union government has not supplied adequate doses of Rifampicin and some drugs used for treating people with Multidrug-resistant TB [MDR-TB],” said Asha Frederick, Tamil Nadu State TB Officer. “The States have been asked to procure the drugs themselves but no additional funding has been provided.”

During the pandemic, there was a sharp fall in new cases being detected and hence, notification of TB cases by the public sector dipped. All TB drugs were supplied by the Central government during the pandemic without any glitch. With TB notification by the public sector improving and nearly reaching pre-pandemic levels, drug procurement and supply by the Central government to States has not kept pace, resulting in shortage, explained Dr. Frederick.

“There is currently no shortage of any TB drug in Tamil Nadu. We will not face any shortage for the next two months. We keep a close watch on buffer stock every month,” she told The Hindu. “In fact, we have supplied TB drugs to some States. We had shipped MDR-TB drugs to Andamans last year, and early this year we supplied the combination drug Isoniazid-Rifapentine used for preventing TB.”

“The Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation [TNMSC] procures drugs for the State. Since it takes 20-40 days for TNMSC to procure drugs through tendering, we at times give funds to districts to buy the drugs locally. If one district has a shortage of any drug it gets it from other districts that have surplus stock,” Dr. Frederick said. “Some districts get the drugs even on credit as they have been buying them locally for about a year.”

The new short-course drug regimen of Isoniazid-Rifapentine given once weekly for 12 weeks (3HP) to prevent TB in people with latent TB infection was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March this year. But the Central government has not supplied the 3HP combination drug to States since then. “Tamil Nadu had procured the combination drug for short-course TB Preventive Treatment [TPT] last year itself and so we began the TPT programme in May this year, the first State to launch the programme,” she said. “So we had stock of the combination drug and have been able to provide the combination drug to people in Tamil Nadu without any problem.”

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