The Supreme Court has asked the Union government why its deadline for administering a daily dose of tuberculosis medicine cannot be preponed from the present three doses per week.
A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud asked Dr Sunil D Khaparde, deputy director general, TB Control Programme, ministry of health and family welfare, to file an affidavit within a week. The bench asked the senior officer, present in the court, to explain whether it is possible to shift to the daily regimen, and while doing so, effectively utilise the drugs being administered in the intermittent regimen.
Haryana-based Dr Raman Kakar, who headed one of the government’s 3,000 odd sub-district TB units, contended in a PIL that the current Indian DOTS (directly observed treatment short-course model) was “unscientific, ineffective and harmful”.
Giving only three doses, instead of seven, per week no doubt reduces the cost to 43%. But it also means a drastic reduction of drug intake, which truncates therapy and weakens it. Even a Category II patient in India ends up getting only 24 injections of Streptomycin, while in other countries (using daily dose), such a patient gets 60 injections, he claimed.
“As a result, Indians don’t have proper, long-lasting recovery. Many patients return sick for yet another course of treatment. India’s relapse (and recurrence) rates are quite high — 10% compared to about 3% internationally,” Dr Kakar said.
Though the government had admitted that the WHO in 2007, and in 2010, advised daily treatment as the preferred drug regimen, it had maintained their present stock of (thrice weekly) drugs worth Rs 117 crore will go to a waste, if the regimen was changed.
However, the petitioner countered it, contending the government has to do it on a war footing, before the October 2, 2017, deadline, as it possessed all wherewithal.