Three months after Karnataka’s request to Centre for regular supply of drug-sensitive TB drugs, requirement has not been met

Updated - June 12, 2024 07:13 am IST

Published - June 11, 2024 10:35 pm IST - Bengaluru

Karnataka notifies more than 80,000 TB patients annually and around 6,800 patients monthly.

Karnataka notifies more than 80,000 TB patients annually and around 6,800 patients monthly. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Three months after Health Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao wrote to the Centre seeking the supply of drug-sensitive tuberculosis (DSTB) drugs on an urgent basis to Karnataka, shortage of TB medications continues to affect patients.

In March, the Centre had written to Karnataka to procure drugs locally for the next three months. As the communication was made after the model code of conduct (MCC) for the Lok Sabha election came into force, the State found it hard to procure the required quantity of drugs and the State’s support to TB patients was hit.

Karnataka notifies more than 80,000 TB patients annually and around 6,800 patients monthly. As these patients need to be provided continuous treatment, Karnataka had then intensified its efforts to procure anti-TB drugs both at the State and the district level.

Now, three months later, even after the MCC has been lifted, regular supply of drugs is yet to resume. Naveen Bhat Y., State Mission Director, National Health Mission (NHM), told The Hindu on Tuesday that only staggered supply had started now.

“We have received supplies of three and four fixed-dose combination drugs (3FDC and 4FDC) that will last only for a month. We are getting supplies once in 15 days that are adequate to just about meet the requirement. But regular supply is yet to start,” Dr. Bhat said.

He said patients were being managed with the available stock by shifting drugs from one district to another where the shortage is forecast on a day-to-day basis. “Permission to locally procure the drugs using Ayushman Bharat Arogya Karnataka (AB-ArK) funds has also been given so that hospitals can make local purchases in case of any emergencies,” the official said, adding that the Central TB Division has assured that regular supply would resume shortly.

Minister’s letter?

In the letter to the then Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, Mr. Rao had pointed out that the frequent interruption in the supply of anti-TB drugs to Karnataka is affecting thousands of patients. “While there has been frequent interruption in the supply of anti-TB drugs to Karnataka since 2021, this year Karnataka received two communications from the Centre asking the State to procure DSTB drugs for the next three months. The second communication was made after the model code of conduct came into effect,” he said in the letter.

While the NHM Mission Director had written to the Union Joint Secretary (RCH) seeking permission to utilise the approved Record of Proceedings of 2024-2025 to procure these medications, the Health Department had also requested the State Finance Department to provide additional funds for procuring the drugs.

The Minister had pointed out that the State’s support for TB patients had been jeopardised due to the short supply. “Both the delayed communication to procure the critical drugs (whose procurement is problematic in the short run) and also issuing the communication during the MCC period have adversely affected the efforts of the State government in this regard. Under these circumstances, the Union government has an obligation to respond immediately and support the State to keep up the supply of critical drugs to the TB patients at a required level,” he had said in the letter.

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