ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dangerous Negligence

A public health emergency may be upon us as stocks of critical anti-TB drugs run low.

The country is facing a calamitous situation where crucial drugs to fight tuberculosis (TB) have almost run out of stock. According to reports paediatric drugs’ stocks began dipping alarmingly low from January this year with the position being currently very grim and stocks of first line drugs like Rifampicin and Isoniazid can barely last until the end of July. There are now media reports that even stocks of second line drugs for multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB are running out and can last perhaps for three months. The government has denied the shortage and said fresh stocks would be available by the month end. 

One of the most critical aspects in the treatment of TB is the necessity of uninterrupted intake of the required dosage. Nothing is more disastrous than a “start-stop-start” regimen since the bacteria become drug resistant very quickly and there is imminent danger of developing the more virulent drug-resistant form of the disease. TB kills 3,00,000 Indians every year (this does not include those who are also infected with HIV), even as 1.5 million patients presently get free drugs at around 13,000 government centres. That is why the stock-out of anti-TB drugs nationwide is a cause for intense worry and urgent search for preventive measures. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognisance and issued notice to the union health and family welfare secretary and health secretaries of all states and union territories. Even the Doctors without Borders or the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in India has expressed its concern that drugs critical for the treatment of children with TB have run out.

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