Civil society demands transparency and uninterrupted supply of TB medicines

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Raising concerns about the recent shortage of TB drugs across the country particularly of child doses used for children, TB patients, civil society and TB organisations gathered at Nirman Bhawan in Delhi today to protest against the ongoing stock-outs of TB medicines that have led to treatment interruptions across the country.

TB medicine shortages are being reported from Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Nagaland and other areas, even as the Health Minister on June 21 issued a press statement denying that that there are stock-outs which prevent people from starting or continuing TB treatment, the civil society groups said.

But in reality, the Health Ministry is finally placing emergency orders for paediatric doses of TB medicines and RNTCP has written to the states to procure certain TB medicines locally. Emergency approval to procure medicines locally has been given to the states but this has its own set of problems. Besides fragmenting the market and destroying pooling power, procurement is disorganised and not always on time.

A continuous, sustainable supply of quality-assured medicines is vital for TB patients to have even half a chance of being cured. In India, it is the responsibility of the Central TB Division in the Health Ministry to ensure the uninterrupted supply of drugs to the whole country.

“As a part of the right to health, a constitutional guarantee to all persons in India, it is the government’s obligation to ensure that the quality TB medicines are accessible and available in sufficient quantity within the country,” said Anand Grover, director, Lawyers Collective HIV/ AIDS unit.

“In the past one year, we had written several times to RNTCP and the Health Ministry warning about the imminent stock outs,” said Blessina Kumar, patient advocate and vice chair, Stop TB Partnership. “Senior officials of the Health Ministry have been unwilling or unable to arrange the timely procurement of TB drugs on which lives depend. We will not be held hostage to official incompetence or negligence; patients have the right to treatment,” she adds.

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