Mumbai: According to the reports by Medecins San Frontiers (MSF), India has been facing an acute shortage of life-saving Tuberculosis drugs for children and those with multi-drug resistant TB. The Health Ministry has seemed to be in complete denial of it.
Under the National TB Programme, the Centre is responsible for buying and distributing TB drugs to states, which then provide free treatment to patients. The shortage has occurred because the government has stopped procurement of these drugs in 2010. The orders for the new batches have been placed only now and it might take upto a year for the demand-supply gap to be met. For a country that has the second highest rate of multi-drug resistant TB, the consequences of the shortage can be deadly.
Due to the shortage of medicines, patients were being turned away. "One of our patients who was 12-years-old, came from a very remote area in Nagaland and she walked a couple of hours to reach our center. When she got here, we treated her but we could not give her medicines because there was a stock-out in the government pharmacy," said Leena Menghaney, India Manager, MSF.
Unlike regular TB, the cost of treatment for drug-resistant TB is huge, approximately Rs 3.5 lakhs per patient per year. NGOs said that poor patients were leaving treatment mid-way and now that they were forced to purchase medicines from private pharmacies.
As the treatment was not completed, there were chances that the body might become resisitant to that medication. "A forced break in treatment means that there were chances of your resistant to the existing medication and you would need higher dosages or more aggressive line of treatment," said Nisreen Ebrahim, CEO, Rangoonwala Foundation.
But the Health Ministry was in complete denial. Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said, "There was no shortage at the moment but as I said we had some supplies in standby and those supplies are being provided and further order has been placed.