Covid-19 impact: 7% TB patients in India forced to discontinue medicines during lockdown

Covid-19 restrictions had an adverse impact on the tuberculosis control program of the government of India. Researchers from the institute gathered the first evidence to show negative impact of Covid-19 on the health services for TB patients.

By Newsmeter Network  Published on  21 Dec 2022 4:21 AM GMT
Covid-19 impact: 7% TB patients in India forced to discontinue medicines during lockdown

Hyderabad: Seven percent of tuberculosis patients stopped taking medicines during Covid-19 lockdown in India, according to a study published in the journal 'BMC Infectious Disease' by the George Institute in India.

The study was carried out among TB patients in tea gardens of Assam and states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and West Bengal.

Bad impact on tuberculosis program

Covid-19 restrictions had an adverse impact on the tuberculosis control program of the government of India. Researchers from the institute gathered the first evidence to show negative impact of Covid-19 on the health services for TB patients.

Researchers found that patients reported difficulties in collecting TB drugs from public health facilities, with 4-7% of patients compelled to discontinue their medicines during the nationwide lockdown.

"Patients were finding it difficult to continue TB treatment because the government health facilities were focused due to the pandemic and also, they could not travel due to travel restrictions," explained Palash Das, Research Fellow at the George Institute for Global Health.

Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, people who were delivering medicines to patients' homes were unable to do so as there was no transport available. The TB program was badly hampered and in many cases, the whereabouts of the patient or their family was unknown. As people migrated for work, the local authorities were unable to track down many of them when they stopped coming for their regular medication.

Government TB control program

Patients who are registered in the government program are followed up for their medication. There is regular counselling carried out for them to continue their medicines. With a lot of side-effects of TB medication, past incidents indicate that patients are not willing to continue the treatment. Also, once the cough subsides, many patients believe that they are free from TB which is not the case, explained Dr. Subhakar Kandi, senior TB specialist in Telangana. For this reason, the government program is designed to make patients continue their medications and ensure that they complete the full course.

Research findings

The findings reveal that more than half of households with a TB patient in the general population group and about a quarter of households with TB patients in the high-risk group (in this case, tea garden workers) had no income during the complete lockdown period.

"Many recruited patients belong to extremely low-income groups working as daily wage earners, contractual workers, etc. There is a clear need for their protection during such restrictions through measures such as paid sick leave, additional food support, etc,"said Dr. Susmita Chatterjee, senior health economist at the George Institute for Global Health.

More than 300 TB patients who were followed up and studied in different states to understand the situation on the ground.

India's TB report

In 2019, India had 26.4 million people suffering from, according to India TB Report published by Central TB division of the ministry of health and family welfare, government of India. There are approximately 4,50,000 deaths every year in India due to TB.

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