Health ministry unveils new TB treatment

With comprehensive services and treatment in place for persons living with tuberculosis (TB), the Ministry of Health is making major strides in reducing TB incidence in the country.

Already, the ministry has achieved a few of its goals for the TB strategy, one of which is the reduction of TB incidence by 20 percent, putting the health sector on track to end TB by 2030.

Director of the TB Programme at the Ministry of Health, Dr Jeetendra Mohanlall speaking on the show

During the ministry’s latest edition of its ‘Health Matters’ show, the Director of the TB Programme, Dr. Jeetendra Mohanlall, disclosed that a new plan will soon be in place to treat TB patients.

Currently, patients are being administered their pills through the Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) strategy.

This strategy is used to ensure that TB patients adhere to and can tolerate the prescribed treatment. Healthcare worker watches the TB patient swallow each dose of the prescribed drugs for six months.

The new regimen that will soon be introduced consist of the use of rifapentine and moxifloxacin.

Dr Mohanlall elaborated, “And you can achieve the same as the six months of therapy with just treatment for four months. So, we are hoping to introduce that regimen sometime this year,”

With the use of this new treatment, the co-infection rate with other diseases such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) will also decrease.

It also decreases the burdens of having patients being monitored on how they take their pills and the time period in which they do.

“Over the years we have managed to drop the burden of HIV co-infection with a lot of prevention. And we still need to do more as it pertains to prevention,” he noted.  

Dr. Mohanlall further elaborated on plans to introduce new medications for latent TB infection, which refers to TB germs that are dormant and non-transmissible.

He said the ministry has acquired a combination pill containing rifapentine and isoniazid, which will soon be incorporated into treatment protocols.

Just like the others, this will also reduce the intake of pills. These pills will be given to the patients once a week for 12 weeks.  Currently, to treat latent TB infection, patients are using only the isoniazid pill on a daily basis.

Upon implementation of these strategies, patients will experience a reduction in pill intake and treatment duration, enabling them to manage their condition more efficiently. Dr. Mohanlall emphasised that, similar to existing approaches, this new regimen will streamline pill consumption. Patients will receive a once-weekly dosage of these combination pills over a period of 12 weeks, marking a notable improvement over the current daily administration of isoniazid pills for latent TB infection.

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