In 2010 when Mahadev Patel, a chemist in Mulund, agreed to partner with the civic body to treatment to tuberculosis (TB) patients in his locality, he did not anticipate the initiative would have an international impact.
However, the chemists’ training programme, jointly conducted by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, Indian Pharmaceutical Association and All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists, is now part of the national TB programme and has attracted attention from other countries.
“Early next month, a team of health officials from Vietnam will visit Mumbai to study the programme. Even officials from Tanzania have shown interest. The role of pharmacists is being recognised for the first time,” said Manjiri Gharat, vice president, Indian Pharmaceutical Association.
“It is very good that our programme is getting replicated and more chemists are joining the initiative. Now that it is being done on a national scale, the message will go out to many more people. I believe that with increased attention from the government we can even aim for a TB-free Mumbai,” said Mahadev Patel, who has provided DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment Shortcourse) to 10 TB patients and referred 18 people for TB diagnosis tests.
The training comprises TB awareness, identifying symptoms, examining prescriptions and basic classification of drugs meant for primary and multi-drug resistant TB. Civic officials also explain how to distribute DOTS medicines and follow up with each patient.
In January 2012 when Hinduja Hospital reported cases of extremely drug-resistant TB in Mumbai, BMC rolled out a special TB control programme in February along with the central government’s TB programme. Chemists said the launch has helped their training programme, which was being implemented on small scale in places like Dombivli, Ulhasnagar and Kalyan.
“Since a chemist is the first point of contact for most patients they can help in early diagnosis and effective treatment. Patients will have better compliance if medicines are available with neighbourhood chemists,” said Dr Minni Khetarpal, TB officer.