New Delhi: The Union Health Ministry has ordered a blanket ban on Tubercolosis antibody tests after the World Health Organisation (WHO) raised an alarm. This came following inaccurate tests that gave false results leading to perfectly healthy patients being put on powerful TB drugs. The WHO had raised the alarm after reviewing 94 studies globally more than a year ago.
Deputy DG of the TB division of the Health Ministry Dr Ashok Kumar said, "It has been proven that these kinds of tests are neither consistent with their diagnosis nor give us the correct diagnosis of TB. So you are allowing the patient to suffer, complicate and transmit the disease. Number two, the cost has to be borne by the patient, a poor patient and they charge somewhere between Rs 880 to Rs 1200 a test, which is not useful and a patient is burdened with financial loss."
The TB anti-serology test gives both false negative and false positive results. Not only can it hide the disease in a TB patient, but non-TB patients can test positive. That is a problem because genuine patients will not get immediate treatment until their disease gets worse.
Patients who do not have TB, are unnecessarily put on powerful TB drugs, which can prove toxic for the liver, kidneys and brain.
The government had earlier identified 15 companies that sell 20 different TB antibody test kit.
Dr Francois Decaillet of WHO said, "India is the first to ban these tests. This is a major public health problem."
The TB DOTS programme in India doesn't use the TB antibody tests but experts say that at least 70 per cent of all TB patients first go to a private doctor and 90 per cent of private doctors prescribe these tests. India records 1.5 million new TB cases every year and has one-fifth of the global TB burden.