The country-wide shortage of TB drugs, Rifampicin and Streptomycin, was briefly felt in Tamil Nadu, but the State hastened to buy them locally, officials said.
There are over 79,000 TB patients on the Directly Observed Treatment Shortcourse (DOTS) therapy recommended by the Revised National TB Control Programme in Tamil Nadu.
The required drugs are supplied by the Centre under this programme.
When a shortage was noticed in the procurement of these two drugs, State officials bought it locally, in the market. At some point there were problems with market availability of the drug itself, because of production issues, but that has been overcome now, officials explained.
“The supply has resumed. We may not get the DOTS boxes, but we get drugs in loose. Then, we reconstitute them, according to the weight and hand them over them to the patient,” a State TB control officer said. DOTS comes in three combinations: 6 months (including Rifampicin) for new cases, 8 months (including Rifampicin and Streptomycin) for retreatment and the pack for Drug Resistant TB cases given once in three months for two years.
It is being anticipated that the paediatric dosage of drugs (given to children, or adults below a certain weight) might run out. But arrangements have been made to procure them locally when that happens. “Some States in the country have already started procurement of the paediatric dosage from the market. We had raised the issue of shortages and drug procurement with the Central government a little while earlier,” Sowmya Swaminathan of the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis in Chennai, said.
The funds to facilitate local purchase at the district level come from the cache of the State Health Society, constituted under the National Rural Health Mission, according to State Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan. This way it would be possible to run the DOTS programme even if there are temporary breaks in the flow of drugs coming from the Centre.
Adherence to the exact prescribed course of TB drugs is an absolute must, not only for cure, but also to prevent the deadly resistant strains, doctors say.