Mumbai: Multi-drug tuberculosis (MDR-TB) patients across Mumbai are being forced to run from pillar to post in search of medicines that are not available at DOT centres and chemists. One direct observed therapy (DOT) centre has in fact placed a cardboard displaying the names of unavailable medicines.
Rajjab Alikhan, an Ola driver from Wadala, has visited more than 100 chemists across Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) region in search of four anti-TB medications, including Linezolid, Clofazimine, Cycloserine and Moxifloxacin, so that his wife’s MDR-TB treatment can continue.
Patients suffering adversely from TB
“In July my wife was having difficulty breathing. I took her to Sion Hospital, where the doctor asked me to conduct a sputum test. The test report revealed that she had MDR-TB, for which a six-month course is required. The hospital refused to treat her for fear that the disease would spread to other patients,” he said.
Alikhan said his wife’s treatment started on August 25, and since then he has been searching for medicines, without luck. The DOT centres are also out of stock, and requesting patients and their relatives to visit other places. They blame the Centre and state government for the shortage, he said.
“I was called to the SIES DOT centre for TB treatment, but on Day 1, I was asked to get Cycloserine 250mg from outside, which cost me ₹450 per packet. I have not been working since my wife’s diagnosis, and it’s a six-month course, which means over lakhs of rupees. I am already in debt,” Alikhan said.
According to health experts, there has been a shortage of supply for more than a month, at both public treatment centres and private pharmacies.
Ganesh Acharya is a TB survivor and activist who has been raising this issue with the government and district TB centres. He believes the government will not meet its target of ending TB by 2025.
“We are dealing with medicines’ side-effects, medicine shortages. Ending TB by 2025 is not a realistic goal,” he said.
Is Central TB Division responsible?
According to a senior official who did not wish to be named, the blame must go to the Central TB Division (CTD) for not procuring and distributing these medicines to all states. It reportedly did not initiate tenders earlier this year, resulting in these stockouts. Maharashtra has nearly 10,000 multi-drug resistant TB patients, of whom 5,000-odd are from the city alone.
“Untreated or improperly managed MDR-TB can lead to more dangerous strains like extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB). These are difficult to treat and have higher fatality rates. Death from TB-related complications is more likely when medication is absent or taken irregularly,” the official said.
TB patients narrate their painful ordeal
A 27-year-old woman registered at the Parel health post said she spends ₹1,700 per week on Linezolid, Clofazimine and Cycloserine. Another patient admitted at GTB Hospital in Sewri said there was a four-day period earlier this month when several of her medicines were unavailable.
“The condition is so bad that one of the centres had received only 35 tablets of Cycloserine for 400 MDR-TB patients in Mumbai. If this continues then all patients will become drug-resistant,” added Acharya.
BMC officials downplayed the shortage, stating they currently have stocks and are prepared to acquire medicines for the coming months.
OUT OF STOCK TB Drugs: