Interview Rohit Sarin Telangana

‘Industry-govt. partnership may help bring down TB drug price’

Director of NITRD Rohit Sarin speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of 50
Union World Conference on Lung Health in Hyderabad.

Director of NITRD Rohit Sarin speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of 50 th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Hyderabad.  

People lack access to technology for rapid diagnosis of TB, says Rohit Sarin

While India contributes 27% to the global burden of Tuberculosis (TB), its diagnosis and drug price continues to be a concern. In an interview with The Hindu, Director of National Institute for Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases (NITRD), Rohit Sarin spoke on the issues that lead to delayed diagnosis, methods to prevent the disease, and other aspects. He was in Hyderabad on Friday to participate in the 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health.

Scores of TB patients in India, who are from poor background, have difficulty in accessing medicine owing to its high price? Is there a way to make pharma companies bring down the prices?

There has to be partnership between industry and the government. They have to reach consensus on what should be the most appropriate price. It’s easy to ask industries to sell drugs at a particular price, but it may not be viable for the industry. Efforts have to be put in to manufacture drugs in India. It will at least cut down the cost to a large extent. If volumes (demand) are more, drugs could be available at a reasonable price.

What kind of effort does the NITRD puts in to bring down the TB drug price?

When we hold discussions with the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), we put forward the point that prices should not be prohibitive. We also ensure that there is competition in manufacturing drugs, and more and more companies are permitted to manufacture drugs.

What are the reasons for delay in diagnosing TB?

We have the technology for rapid diagnosis of TB. But what we lack is access. A large number of patients who develop TB belong to poor socio-economic strata. For them, loss of time and wages is important. If they have to travel long distances and spend money on it, wait in line and lose wages for a day, they would like to go to a practitioner who lives close to their home to get checked for cough.

Are medicines the only way to prevent TB, or are there any other methods?

Medicines do have their role. But wider interventions are required. Patients with active TB have to be educated about using a handkerchief or cloth when coughing so that it will not infect others. One way of cutting the chain of transmission is by ensuring that the individual does not allow bacterial transmission from him/her.

Besides, the sooner a patient with active TB starts treatment, the less infectious he/she becomes. Early diagnosis and treatment of a patient would also prevent the spread of the disease to rest of the community. Whenever a patient is in a healthcare setting, the environment should be in a manner that it reduces the transmission.

Among people of different age groups and sex, in whom is the TB diagnosis slow?

It is difficult to diagnose TB in children as even if they cough, there will be no sputum.

The current tests for TB are sputum based. So we miss out on the diagnosis. Also, there are challenges in diagnosing extra pulmonary TB. The disease can affect any part or organ of the body like bones, skin and lymph nodes for which ready diagnosis is not available.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 11:30:56 PM |

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