New Drugs Still Out of Reach for Most in India, World Tuberculosis Hotspot

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The case of a Mumbai tailor cured of an extremely resistant form of tuberculosis this week has revived debate over a new drug to which the Indian government has limited access, prompting calls for change.

Dr Zarir Udwadia, the chest physician who treated the tailor, said the government needed to do a “a lot more” to control tuberculosis in India, home to the world’s largest number of TB patients.

The government approved the drug bedaquiline in January for about 500 patients under a national TB control program. It is intended for patients with an extremely resistant form of the infection and are immune to existing drugs.

But it has no plans yet to make the drug available to the private sector, which is where more than half of the 3 million afflicted with the deadly infection go for treatment.

“They are starting with the pilot study (on bedaquiline), but you know what? Our plans can take forever. And till then, people are dying,” Udwadia said.

Experts say the government is hesitant to allow the drug’s wider use as a lack of supervision, incorrect diagnostics and mismanagement of drugs are commonplace in the private sector.

Source: Reuters (link opens in a new window)

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