India to finalise a national strategy plan to end TB

Aarti Dhar, CNS Correspondent, India
India will shortly finalise a national strategy to end tuberculosis (TB) in the country by 2025; this was announced by the Union Health and Family Welfare Minister J.P. Nadda to mark the International TB Day on March 24. The 'daily regimen' of TB drugs, which has been found to be more effective than intermittent treatment, will also be rolled out across the country this year. As of now, this regimen is being implemented in only five states.

"Ensuring affordable and quality healthcare to the people is the government's priority. We are committed to achieving zero TB deaths. Therefore, we need to re-strategise, think afresh and be aggressive in our approach to end TB by 2025. The National Strategic Plan (NSP) will be finalised in a month and will be rolled out across the country with the aim to make India TB-Free. This programme aims at the rapid decline of the TB burden," Mr Nadda said. The National Strategy Programme (2017-2025) for TB will also have a separate gender component to address the needs of women, such as infertility, and social, economic and psychological needs, according to Soumya Swaminathan, Secretary, Department of Health Research, and Director, Indian Council of Medical Research.

Dr Swaminathan said much more was required to be done if India was to achieve the End-TB Goal as the existing tools would not be able to take us to the elimination targets. She said the government was trying to bring together various stakeholders on a public-private partnership to work in a mission mode in the next 10 years to achieve the target of TB elimination. The stakeholders include researchers, pharmacists, politicians, and civil society groups. Dr Swaminathan was of the opinion that a vaccine for adults was the need of the hour to prevent TB which had to be more effective than the BCG vaccine. She also said many of the TB drugs were beyond the reach of the people.

India has the highest number of TB cases in the world with 2.8 million, and a mortality of 4.8 lakh annually. The 'Active Case Findings' initiative, which was launched in January in 17 states and covered 50 districts in the first phase to treat TB among vulnerable population groups, will be rolled out in 130 high-risk districts by the end of this year, and would help in putting TB patient on treatment early. This would reduce the number of deaths, transmission of the disease and also its drug-resistant variant. The government has distributed more than 500 CBNAAT machines for rapid quality diagnostics in a year, with at least one such machine for each district. This has led to a 35% rise in the notification of multi drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) cases last year.

Aarti Dhar, Citizen News Service - CNS
April 5, 2017