While city-based TB survivor Marzia Dalal applauded the government move to finally focus on the dreaded disease and end it, doctors are a tad sceptical. “Eliminating TB by 2025 is a pipe dream. It is just too optimistic,” said Dr Zarir Udwadia, consulting chest physician who was the first in the country to identify an extremely dangerous form of TB (XDR-TB). “A politician’s slogan — full of sound but lacking meaning and impossible to implement in our country,” Udwadia added. He, however, welcomed the budgetary announcement to reduce the cost of drugs and hoped that “prohibitively expensive second-line TB drugs would get cheaper”. Udwadia along with other TB activists welcomed the announcement by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to introduce action plans to end TB along with other diseases like leprosy, kala azar, measles and filariasis.
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But eliminating TB by 2025 when the country is faced with 2.8 million new patients seems impossible at present unless the government steps up programmes to provide proper nutrition for TB patients and prevent the disease, said Blessina Kumar, CEO of Global Coalition of TB Activists. “We need a clear, well-thought plan that can be urgently implemented,” Kumar added.
“Eliminating TB should be taken up along the lines of polio eradication. Till today, people who are diagnosed with TB do not know what to do or where to go,” Kumar said.
According to Pune Municipal Corporation and Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation TB control officers, there are 3,800-4,000 new TB patients every year. While a total of 96 multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB patients from Pune are on treatment, another 75 MDR TB patients are from PCMC. There are a total of 14 XDR-TB patients and officials said the new policy of providing a daily drug regimen has been introduced from today.
Meanwhile, at the Indian Medical Association, officials, however, welcomed the move to widen the availability of essential drugs across India. This will ensure the availability of medicines at reasonable prices and give people access to life-saving medicines, they said.