Tuberculosis patients in northeast Mumbai, Kalyan and Navi Mumbai will soon be able to go to their neighbourhood chemist for free treatment and counselling instead of travelling to a public hospital thrice a week.
About 150 retail chemists in the region will start providing Direct Observation Treatment (DOTS) for tuberculosis (TB) from March 24, which is marked as the World Tuberculosis Day.
This development is part of a two-year project to make the government’s DOTS programme more patient-friendly and accessible.
The project is the result of a public-private collaboration between the government, municipal corporations, chemists and pharmaceutical associations.
The government had first roped in pharmacies in 2006. However, only about 40 pharmacies used to provide DOTS till now. After northeast Mumbai, Kalyan and Navi Mumbai, pharmacists in other areas will also be approached.
“We decided to start with these areas because the TB burden is high there,” said Manjiri Gharat, who heads the Indian Pharmaceutical Association’s DOTS project.
Dr Arun Bamane, who heads the city’s TB Control Programme, said the increase in access to treatment would make life simpler for patients and also reduce the incidence of multi-drug resistant TB cases.
“There is a lot of stigma associated with visiting TB clinics, so some patients avoid it,” he said.
According to estimates, about 60 per cent of patients go to private doctors and then purchase medicines from chemists. But under the DOTS programme, they will get medicines for free from chemists.
Apart from providing treatment, pharmacists will also be trained to identify symptoms of TB and refer suspected cases to diagnostic clinics.
American pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly, which works to reduce the TB burden as part of its corporate social responsibility, will provide financial support to the project.