The Ministry of Health has announced changes in the treatment period for Multiple Drug Resistant Tuberculosis. The treatment period has been reduced from 20 to 9 months.
MDR-TB is a form of TB caused by bacteria that is resistant to at least two first-line anti-TB medications. In Uganda, these medications include; isoniazid and rifampicin.
The announcement was made on Thursday in Kampala during the TB Awareness Meeting organized for Members of Parliament.
Dr. Stavia Turyahabwe, Assistant Commissioner National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Division, says that they have shortened the treatment period to reduce on the bill burden faced by patients taking the drugs for a long period of time.
According to data from the Uganda Prevalence TB survey, one in every 100 newly diagnosed TB patients and 12 in every 100 previously treated TB patients are estimated to have MDR-TB.
Dr.Turyahabwe says that this change will also see the introduction of new first-line medication for MDR-TB that will make the treatment more effective.
Previously, MDR-TB patients have been swallowing a combination of Rifampicin and isoniazid.
The new drug regimens include; ethambutol, clofazimine and an increased dose of isoniazia.
Dr. Doreen Birabwa Male, Deputy Executive Director Mulago and also the Head of the TB Department, says that the reduction in treatment time will reduce the exposure to side effects that TB patients are likely to suffer from.
“The drugs used for TB treatment have serious side effects. They can cause blindness, liver failure or even deafness in patients. Before we have had to continuously monitor patients to make sure they didn’t suffer from these side effects.” Male says.
It is estimated that 80,000 Ugandans annually are infected with TB.
However, during the two-year treatment regimen, only 54 percent of the patients who were diagnosed and begun treatment are estimated to have completed their treatment.
Dr.Turyahabwe says that lack of Testing for TB is not common by health workers. Now if someone tests but does not complete treatment it leaves many Ugandans at the risk of acquiring TB.”
The Ministry’s announcement comes more than a year after the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended to shorten the treatment duration for MDR-TB.
Starting this month, the new treatment timelines will be rolled out throughout the country.