The government is expected to soon finalise an “aggressive” national strategy to end tuberculosis in the country, which has 2.8 million new TB cases annually leading to nearly half a million deaths. Observing that India represents the single highest number of TB cases in the world, Union Health Minister J P Nadda said today that his government has approached the “challenge” to end the disease in “all seriousness” and has accelerated action to meet the ‘End TB target by 2025’.
In this regard, he spoke of the threat posed by Drug Resistant TB cases and the focus on co-morbidities of HIV and diabetes as well as paediatric TB. “Our Government has called a meeting on ‘End TB target by 2025′ and has accelerated action in this regard. We are aware of the challenges posed before us. We experience more than 2.8 million new TB cases annually, nearly half a million deaths.
“The New National Strategic Plan (NSP), expected to be finalized soon, in consultation with our partners is looking for an aggressive strategy to end TB,” Nadda said during WHO WHO Regional Health Ministers’ Meeting on TB here. He also urged the global health body to include tuberculosis in its priority list of antibiotic resistant bacteria to guide research, discovery and development of new antibiotics.
“TB remains a challenge, but we are on track,” he said.
Noting that India has made tuberculosis case notification mandatory, Nadda said that a high proportion (almost 92 per cent) of TB patients with HIV has been put on antiretroviral therapy while 500 Cartridge Based Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (CB NAAT) machines have been rolled out in one year offering rapid quality diagnostics, linking at least one such machine for each district.
“These steps have led to 35 per cent rise in the Drug Resistant TB case notification in 2016,” he said.
The Health Minister asserted that India has the capability and the resolve to meet some of the biggest challenges of public health and through targeting TB, the country aims to tackle inequity in health and improve health and productivity of the people. “The Drug Resistant TB is as larger problem affecting our populations and significantly contributing to the morbidity and mortality,” he said.
Nadda said that new anti-TB drug ‘Bedaquiline’ has been introduced under Conditional Access Programme (CAP) to improve outcomes of drug resistant TB treatment. “The programme has revised the technical and operational guidelines with major revisions in diagnostic algorithm, treatment strategies and surveillance.
“While we have made these advances, we are also looking for new innovative approaches and tools, ones which will improve active case detections, enable us to reach patients in private sector and inform us on what we can do to prevent cases amongst 30 per cent of our population who are infected,” he said.
Noting that the government is aware that it cannot afford to be “complacent”, Nadda said that it is focussing on co-morbidities of HIV and diabetes while paediatric TB is also a “priority”.
“We are also exploring partnership with other sectors for social support for TB patients. Robust partnerships with the civil society organisations are in place and are being strengthened and expanded.
“We realise that we must sustain our efforts with renewed vigour and innovative means to cover all patients under the programme. Hence, while TB remains a challenge, we are on track,” he said.