Mumbai's successful tuberculosis (TB) programme, through which patients get free medicines at pharmacies, will now be replicated across the country.
Last month, the Union health ministry's central TB division and the Indian Pharmaceutical Association (IPA) - a national body of pharmacy professionals - released a training manual for community pharmacists and rolled out the programme.
Now, pharmacists and TB control officers in Delhi, Jharkhand, Gujarat, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh are being trained to dispense medicines in a similar fashion.
The training includes making pharmacists aware of the disease, and its symptoms along with teaching them how to examine prescriptions and learn the basic classification of drugs meant for primary and multi-drug resistant TB. Pharmacists are expected to monitor the treatment schedule and track the medicine intake of each patient registered with them.
"Patients often go to chemists asking for cough medicine, assuming they have a minor ailment. These need to be referred to civic centres so they can be checked for TB," said Manjiri Gharat, vice president, IPA. "The role of the pharmacist registered with the programme is to identify such suspected TB cases and convince them to get tested. If the patients are diagnosed, they can get free medicine from the civic health system or the pharmacist."
The IPA has entered a public-private agreement called Lilli MDR TB Partnership, which has engaged city pharmacists to control the TB epidemic since 2006. Over the years, more than 400 pharmacists in the city and Navi Mumbai have volunteered for the Revised National Tuberculosis Control (RNTCP) programme which distributes medicines under the Directly Observed Treatment Shortcourse (DOTS) programme.
In 2011-12, 104 pharmacists in the city became DOTS providers, catering to 398 patients. One such pharmacist, Mahadev Patel, who runs a chemist shop in Mulund (East), said "I am happy to have contributed successfully to the Mumbai's tuberculosis-control programme." At least ten patients who collected their medicines from Patel's shop have been cured of the disease.
World TB day is observed on March 24 every year.