Neighbourhood pharmacists to spot TB cases

Combating illness

 As India continues to battle tuberculosis (TB), our neighbourhood pharmacists are getting busy training themselves to identify probable TB patients, perform basic diagnosis, refer them to clinics and distribute free medicine, besides counselling and creating awareness. India accounts for one-fifth of the patients in the world.

According to the Global TB Report, every year 24 lakh people lose their lives to the disease in India as opposed to 14 lakh in the rest of the world.

The Centre, having assessed the magnitude, has launched many programmes to counter TB over the years. In what appears to be one its most unique programmes, starting this year, the Centre will implement a new drive that will train neighbourhood pharmacists to perform a large role in eradicating the disease.

Stating that pharmacists were, on many occasions, the first and repeated point of contact to the community, a Health and Family Welfare Ministry (MoHfw) official said that they (the pharmacist) could be the point of contact for a chest symptomatic, and a TB patient who is on treatment (from public and private hospitals).

Speaking to Deccan Herald from Delhi, K S Sachdeva, Additional Deputy Director-General of Health Services, MoH, said “the programme will be implemented in phases and as part of the first phase we will introduce this in five states – Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkand and Uttar Pradesh. The pharmacists will be provided with some basic testing equipment after the training.”

The programme would be implemented in close association with the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD), another official said. It would be the organisation’s responsibility to identify pharmacists from various zones. D S Guddodgi, president, AIOCD, Karnataka, said “we are not part of the first phase, but the project will be implemented here in the future and we will soon begin the ground work for the same. We will have to identify the pharmacists.”

Suresh Gupta, general secretary of AIOCD, said “a memorandum of understanding to this effect was signed about six months ago and the programme is being implement this year.” He said the association had a network of over 7.5 lakh registered pharmacists and about 5.2 lakh of this were retailers. They would carry out the programme.

The training has already begun in Uttar Pradesh and the government will soon begin supplying free medicines through such stores. The training is carried out in English, Hindi and any other local language depending on the region.

It will cover topics like, TB as a disease, global scenario, cause, risk factors, symptoms, types, diagnosis, suspect detection, referrals to be discussed et al.

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