New Delh: To ensure improved monitoring of tuberculosis patients and help bring them under the ambit of the government`s disease control programme, the Health Ministry has proposed to make available medicines free of cost at all chemists across the country from March next.
According to Health Ministry officials, a proposal to this effect is being given final shape and a sum of Rs 800 crore earmarked during the current financial year for rolling the scheme that will bring all tuberculosis patients under the ambit of Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP).
"The purpose of the scheme is to make drugs available to all tuberculosis patients, especially the poor who get themselves treated from private doctors and buy medicines from chemists," said Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Jagdish Prasad.
He said the scheme will help improve tracking the disease and monitoring of such patients.
Explaining the scheme, Prasad said, records of TB patients will be computerised and every patient will be issued a unique identification number through which chemists can give medicines provided free by the government.
At present, tuberculosis patients are enrolled with DOTS (directly observed therapy centres) under the RNTCP but many of them are still treated by private practitioners and tend to miss their regular dosage, often leading to multi-drug resistant (MDR) tuberculosis.
An estimated over 2 million people contract TB in the country every year and the government hopes to rope in around 4 lakh more patients under the tuberculosis programme.
There are around 60,000 MDR tuberculosis patients in the country, Prasad said.
The scheme came after government declared tuberculosis (TB) a notifiable disease in May this year, making it mandatory on all private doctors, healthcare providers and clinical establishments treating such patients to report each case of the air-borne disease to the government.