It has been noted, with a great deal of concern, that the number of drug resistant TB cases is on the rise. So these are cases of TB that can’t be cured with ‘first line’ drugs like Isoniazid and Rifampcin. People with such strains of tuberculosis often have to be put on ‘second line’ drugs such as streptomycin. That often means having to go through longer — and more expensive– treatment courses. And the people put through such treatment courses also often have to deal with more severe (and sometimes lifelong) side effects.
Unsurprisingly then, one of the key discussions whenever infectious disease experts meet is as to how these drug resistant TB cases can be dealt with. The objective is to eliminate the drug resistant TB cases as soon as possible. In fact, the ultimate objective is to eradicate tuberculosis altogether – which is actually an achievable goal, given that are many other diseases that have been virtually eradicated in the past.
So, how can the war against TB drug resistance be won?
Well, the most important thing is to ensure treatment adherence for people who are diagnosed with the normal strains of TB (that is, the strains of TB that are not drug resistant). It is worth noting that many of the drug resistant TB cases started as ‘normal TB’ cases. Then, due to improper treatment (like where people quit treatment before completing the doses) the TB bacteria eventually became drug resistant.
In more specific terms, patients who are diagnosed with normal TB cases need to be supported fully, to ensure that they adhere to treatment guidelines. Ideally, TB should be viewed as a public health issue, and treatment offered free of charge. The moment you start demanding that people pay directly for their treatment is the point you will start having treatment failures. If you expect a struggling worker to, say, go to the mypepsico login page, sign in there, get a paycheck and then use the money for treatment, you may be courting failure. The person in question may not be able to afford the full dose of drugs necessary for proper treatment of TB: potentially leading to drug resistance.
Besides giving free treatment to TB patients, there should be proper follow up on the people who are diagnosed with the illness (to ensure that they stick to their treatment plans). Remember, some of the individuals who are diagnosed with TB may be individuals who have no fixed abodes or means of livelihood. It is very easy for such people to get ‘lost’ before they complete their treatment courses – potentially leading to TB drug resistance.