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Insurance Article

Tuberculosis and Its Treatment

March 01 2017
Symptoms of tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is one of the biggest health problems in India

India bears a disproportionately large burden of the world's tuberculosis (TB) rates, as it continues to be the biggest health problem in India. The recently discovered global phenomenon of Totally Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis complicates this situation further.

The TB-affected population is rising in India as a majority of them are unable to afford the treatment drugs prescribed. At present, only 1.5 million patients already under the Indian government's care get free treatments for regular TB. Patients who seek treatment in India's growing private sector struggle to buy drugs for themselves.

Tuberculosis, an ancient and deadly bacterial disease that most commonly affects the lungs, has been curable for decades using a cocktail of antibiotics taken for six months. However, the bacteria have mutated into more drug-resistant forms which have become difficult to treat.

Treatment of Tuberculosis

It is a common disease in developing countries, and has been reappearing in developed countries because of the migration of population and other diseases lowering human immunity. It is amongst the ten leading causes of death and one of the most common causes of death in children. Treatment is done using a combination of drugs and surgery.

The aims of TB treatment are:

  • To cure the patient of TB and restore their quality of life and productivity
  • To prevent the relapse of TB
  • To reduce the transmission of TB to others
  • To prevent the development and transmission of drug-resistant TB

Drugs

There are more than twenty drugs available for TB treatment. They are used in differing combinations in different circumstances. Few TB drugs are only used for the treatment of new patients when there is no suggestion of any drug resistance. Others are only used for the treatment of drug-resistant TB. The new TB drugs bedaquiline and delamanid are also available to be used for the treatment of MDR-TB.

More than 90% people with drug-susceptible TB can be cured in six months using a combination of first line TB drugs. The bacteria die very slowly, and so the drugs are to be continued for quite a few months. Even when a patient starts to feel better, they can still have bacteria alive in their body. All the drugs must be taken for the entire period of the TB treatment. If only one or two TB drugs are taken, then the bacteria may not all be killed.

Relapse & Recurrence

A patient is said to relapse if he/she becomes and remain culture negative while on TB treatment, but become culture positive or become ill again after finishing his/her TB treatment.

Recurrence of active TB is usually referred to the situation when a patient’s first TB treatment appears to have been successful and after a significant time interval, it develops again. This may either be because of reactivation of the patient’s previously latent TB or because he/she has been re-infected.

If any of these situations occur, it must be considered a real possibility that the person has drug resistant TB. The new TB treatment program must be decided taking this into account.

Cost of Treatment

The cost of treatment of TB can be high especially if it is drug resistant. The treatment for standard TB costs approximately ₹1,000 and for drug resistant TB can easily run beyond ₹1 lakh for a single course. Getting a health insurance is the first and foremost step to protect yourself against the financial losses arising from the rising cost of treatment of TB. With free health check-ups and cashless hospitalisation, you can avail the best health care services free of cost and cure yourself from TB.

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