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India commits to eradicating TB by 2025, way ahead of global time line

Starts 3-month prevention course; generic low cost versions of J&J's MDR-TB drug likely to boost programme

Sohini Das Mumbai
New rapid TB tests could reduce mortality

In 2022 India notified a record 2.42 mn TB cases, an increase of 13 percent compared to 2021

Launching the ‘TB Mukt Panchayat Abhiyan’ among other initiatives, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday reiterated that India is committed to end tuberculosis by 2025, five years ahead of the stipulated time set globally.
In 2022, India notified a record 2.42 million TB cases, up 13 per cent over to 2021. This translates to a case notification rate of about 172 cases per 100,000 population. This year also saw the highest number of private TB case notifications at 730,000, and the total number of multidrug resistant (MDR-TB) cases diagnosed in 2022 was 63,801. Further, in 2022 the presumptive TB examination rate (PTBER) for the country rose to 1,281 per 100,000 population, up 68 per cent from 763 in 2021.

The Prime Minister said the commitment and determination with which India dedicated itself to tackling TB after 2014 is unprecedented. India’s efforts are important, he said, as this is a new model for the global war on TB.  He dwelt on a multi-pronged approach against TB in the last nine years. He listed people’s participation, enhancing nutrition, treatment innovation, tech integration and wellness and prevention such as Fit India, Yoga, and Khelo India type of interventions.
The PM also spoke about a new campaign, launched on Thursday, called TB Mukt Panchayat Abhiyaan, and said that the Centre is starting a three-month treatment programme for the prevention of TB instead of a six-month course. He said that earlier, patients had to take medicines for six months every day but now, in the new system, they would have to do so only once a week.

A senior official in the Central TB Division told Business Standard that this is aimed at people (like family members of TB patients) who are at high risk of contracting the disease.
On top of this, a key drug for treating MDR-TB from Johnson and Johnson (J&J), is now set to go off patent in July. The India Patent Office on Thursday rejected the American pharma giant's application to extend its monopoly on a key TB drug, bedaquiline. Now several generic drug makers can make cheaper copies of the drug which is roughly priced at $340 (Rs 27,200) for a six-month regimen.

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A government official said that the Centre procures as much bedaquiline as is required, and with the patent expiry, the cost of procurement is likely to come down now, giving an overall boost to the country’s TB programme.
Meanwhile, the PM said that since the major challenge for TB patients is nutrition, the contribution of Nikshay Mitra campaign is useful. The Centre has transferred around Rs 2,000 crore under the direct benefit transfer scheme for TB patients since 2018, benefitting 7.5 million patients.

Noting that it is very difficult to arrive at new solutions by practicing outdated ways, Modi said the government has worked with new strategies so that TB patients don't fall out of their treatment. He gave examples of initiating the Ayushman Bharat Scheme for screening and treating TB, increasing the number of testing labs in the country and formulating region-specific work policies by targeting cities where the number of TB patients is high.
In 2022, India conducted 13.9 million sputum smear tests and 5.8 million nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT) to scan for TB. The task of TB Prevention Treatment (TPT) scale-up has been taken up in 2022. By the end of 2022, 722 (94 per cent) districts of India have expanded TPT as per the national guidelines. TB Infection (TBI) testing services were established in 246 (32 per cent) districts.

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First Published: Mar 24 2023 | 5:05 PM IST

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