Bedaquiline has given a new hope to hundreds of patients diagnosed with multidrug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in Mumbai. Civic health officers said the drug has helped improve the recovery rate from 40% to 70% among TB patients with drug resistant strains since its launch in 2018. Till date, 4,273 MDR-TB patients have been given the drug in Mumbai.
Bedaquiline is a diarylquinoline antimycobacterial used in combination with other anti-bacterials to treat patients with MDR-TB— when the TB bacteria develops resistance to a few medicines that are used for the treatment of TB. The government has a restrictive policy of giving Bedaquiline under the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP).
Data from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) shows that since 2018, 4,273 patients with MDR-TB have benefited from Bedaquiline drugs. In 2018, only 273 MDR-TB patients were enrolled for the drug. In the following year, the number increased to 1,089. In 2020, amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, a total of 2,068 MDR-TB patients benefited from it.
“Earlier, the recovery rate among the MDR-TB patients was around 40-50%. Now, with the introduction of the drugs, we have observed that the recovering rate has increased to 70%. This has also helped to fight against the fear that TB is incurable,” said Dr Pranita Tipre, in-charge of TB department in the BMC.
Dr Jalil Parker, pulmonologist at Lilavati Hospital, Bandra, has also made similar observations. “We have seen better recovery among MDR-TB patients who are being given Bedaquiline compared to who aren’t part of the regime,” he said.
India still hasn’t allowed commercial sales of Bedaquiline, fearing overuse could lead to drug resistance. Only public hospitals can write out Bedaquiline that is given free as a part of the Revised National TB Control Programme.
In 2018, 5,594 patients of MDR were detected in Mumbai, followed by 5,673 in 2019, 4,367 in 2020. Health activists believe that the detection and treatment of MDR-TB patients has been affected due to the pandemic.
“TB is one of the biggest killers in India. Despite this, the diagnosis of the TB patients was shelved away in the first and second wave of the pandemic. Many MDR-TB patients missed out on their medications due to its unavailability. It will be reflected on the anti-TB programme in the long run,” said Ganesh Acharya, a TB activist.
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