A letter on 29th September was addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Health Minister Manshukh Mandaviya by 113 civil society organizations and 776 individuals worldwide. They urgently requested intervention in the shortage of drugs for TB patients. Drug-resistant TB patients in India, who require advanced treatment because the first-line TB drugs are ineffective, have been experiencing shortages for several months.
A recent report by The Wire featured the concerns of family members of TB patients, various civil society groups, state TB officers, and organizations like the WHO. Despite these stakeholders expressing serious concerns, the Indian government denied the problem just two days after the report was published.
India's health minister also did not attend the UN high-level meeting on TB, which took place in New York on September 22. The letter from TB advocacy groups has now been sent from New York. These groups and individuals are from various countries, including Kenya, the United States, the United Kingdom, Zambia, Malawi, Uganda, Canada, Ghana, Cameroon, Indonesia, South Africa, India, and several others.
Given that India has the highest TB burden globally, any obstacles in disease treatment or disease prevalence in the country are critical factors in achieving the global goal of TB elimination. The WHO's target is to eliminate TB worldwide by 2030, while Prime Minister Modi has set a target of 2025 for India.
The Union Health Ministry in India on 1st September strongly refuted recent media reports claiming a shortage of anti-tuberculosis medicines in the country. In a firm statement, the Ministry labeled these reports as "false, motivated, and misleading."
The Ministry emphasized that there is an ample supply of all anti-TB drugs within the nation. They further stated that the Central government consistently conducts proactive assessments to gauge the stock levels at various stages, ranging from central warehouses to peripheral health institutions.
Regarding the information presented in these media reports, the Ministry asserted that they are not only incorrect and deceptive but also fail to provide an accurate representation of the actual availability of anti-TB drugs in India.
The Ministry clarified that the treatment for drug-sensitive TB typically involves taking four drugs for the first two months, which are available as a combination known as 4FDC (Isoniazid, Rifampicin, Ethambutol, and Pyrazinamide). This is followed by two months of taking three drugs available as 3FDC (Isoniazid, Rifampicin, and Ethambutol).
The statement from the Ministry emphasized that there are sufficient stocks of all these drugs, ensuring an uninterrupted supply for at least six months. Additionally, the procurement process for drugs for the upcoming financial year 2024-25 has already commenced.