The All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists Association (AIOCD), a representative body of 8.5 lakh chemists in the country, has urged the Union health ministry not to penalise chemists for failing to report tuberculosis (TB) cases as it could be counterproductive.
Chemists are facing difficulty in obtaining identity proof and residential address of TB patients as patients or their relatives are not willing to disclose them fearing social stigma. Patients’ identity proof, residential address, mobile/telephone number are mandatory for reporting TB cases to designated TB official/authority, said AIOCD in a letter to JP Nadda, Union minister of health and family welfare.
Chemists can ask them for the information but cannot compel for address proof and their mobile number, as the matter of secrecy about illness and information of disease arises, said JS Shinde, president of AIOCD.
TB patients notified from pharmacies shall be contacted and verified by public health authority or their authorised representative.
Imposition of penal action against chemists may result in poor availability of TB medicines thereby affecting TB treatment, said Shinde.
Highlighting difficulties faced by drug retailers during the face to face dealing with TB patients and their relatives, the AIOCD president said “The patients or their relative do not want to disclose their name and identity. They are not ready to provide detailed residential address, their identity proof and mobile/telephone number.”
At times patients from rural areas fail to bring fresh prescription from their doctor and ask for medicines to be continued for a certain period. In case of young generation TB patients, neither they nor their families want to disclose their name and in particular in case of female, they don’t bring her in front and hence it is very difficult to tackle them. In above circumstance, it is very difficult for the chemists to follow the norms notified by the ministry for TB reporting, he said.
Said Rajiv Singhal, general secretary, AIOCD “We feel that DOT programme should be vigorously promoted and awareness should be created in common man so that people would come forward to register his name as a TB patient.”
“Our members are afraid of imposition of penal action against them for none of their mistake. It may result in poor availability of TB medicines and patients may also hesitate to come forward and register his name as a TB patient,” he said.
Singhal said, “We are ready to support fully by all possible and practical manners with the government in eradication of TB in the country by 2025. We appeal to the health ministry to strike down penal provisions for not reporting TB cases as it may have adverse impact on TB eradication.”
The ministry of health and family welfare in a notification last month said clinical establishments (hospitals and clinics in all recognised systems of medicine), doctors, chemists and druggists “shall notify every TB patient to local public health authority” in a prescribed format.
It has introduced provision for jail terms of up to two years if the major stakeholders in the fight against TB fail to report such cases to the nodal officer and if the health staff fail to take appropriate action on getting the information.
It is learnt that an estimated 4,80,000 Indians die of TB every year. India also has more than a million ‘missing’ cases every year — these are not notified, and most remain either undiagnosed or inadequately diagnosed and treated in the private sector.
“To ensure proper TB diagnosis and its management in patients and their contacts and to reduce TB transmission and further to address the problems of emergence and spread of drug resistant-TB, it is essential to collect complete information of all TB patients,” the notification said.