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'Urgent measures needed to control drug resistant TB'

Delhi,Health/Medicine, Fri, 23 Mar 2012 IANS

New Delhi, March 23 (IANS) Members from civil society Friday called for urgent measures to act on regulation of tuberculosis (TB) drugs in the private market and growing number of drug-resistant TB ahead of the world TB day March 24.


"It's painfully clear that DR-TB infections are on the rise in India. The conditions for emergence of drug resistance are undeniably prevalent, in both the public programme and the private health sector," said Amit Sengupta from Peoples' Health Movement.


Experts from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Peoples' Health Movement, Stop TB Partnership and Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+) said that the Revised National TB Control Program (RNTCP) poses a higher risk for patients to miss doses, which is another key factor that leads to the creation of drug-resistant strains of TB.


The RNTCP provides treatment to TB patients on alternate days, instead of daily treatment and the programme does not invest in treatment counselling that strengthens adherence to treatment.


"The Direct Observed Treatment (DOT) model implemented by RNTCP is paternalistic, and fails to empower and support patients through TB treatment serving up a perfect recipe for treatment interruptions. This has implications not only for the patients treated but also on the development of drug resistance," said Hari Shankar, of the DNP+.


According to the health ministry's TB Control India statistics, the disease kills two people every three minutes, and accounts for over 3 million (3 lakh) deaths every year.


The airborne disease is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis that affects the lungs.


Symptoms include severe cough which lasts for three weeks or longer, producing bloody or discoloured sputum, night sweats, fever, fatigue and weakness, pain in the chest, loss of appetite, and pain in breathing or coughing.


"The proliferation of TB formulations in the private market coupled with the casual over-the-counter sale of antibiotics, of which some are used for DR TB treatment, is fuelling the development of drug resistance," said Piero Gandini, MSF's Head of Mission in India.


"There is an urgent need for regulatory control of sale and administration of TB drugs in the private sector in order to address the growing incidence of severe forms of DR-TB in India," Gandini added.


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