The Indian government is planning to increase efforts to eliminate tuberculosis in the country, which kills half a million of its citizens annually.
Tuberculosis (TB) causes more deaths globally than HIV and malaria combined, says the World Economic Forum.
According to the World Health Organisation, there were an estimated 10.4 million new TB cases worldwide and 1.8 million deaths in 2015.
India is at the centre of the global epidemic, accounting for 16% of the estimated 480,000 new cases of multi-drug-resistant TB.
TB is one of many diseases that affect Indians, and India is under-performing on several key health indicators, as seen in a recent report on attainment of health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 188 countries.
The report analyses data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016, which measured 37 health-related indicators from 1990 to 2016.
India ranked extremely low at 127 out of 188 countries, showing that the country’s economic progress is not reflected in the health of its people.
India’s government has taken several steps in the last five years to address the issue, including making TB a notifiable disease, developing standards for TB care, introducing daily drug regimens and introducing molecular and drug-susceptibility testing.
India’s National Health Policy was also approved this year and proposes to increase government health expenditure from 1.15% to 2.5% of the GDP by 2025.
In a further effort to tackle tuberculosis, India’s Revised National TB Control Program (RNTCP) published a draft of the new National Strategic Plan (NSP) for TB Elimination 2017-2025 at the start of 2017.
This plan aims to improve services and outcomes for 1.5 million patients relying on the public health system and to increase access to new diagnostics and drugs.
It also has a long term plan to work with private providers to help support the millions treated privately.
These plans will be realised by giving incentives to providers to follow standard diagnostic protocol and treatment and notifying the government of cases.
Referred patients will then receive cash compensation for direct and indirect costs of treatment.
RNTCP estimates the cost of the plan’s implementation to be roughly US$2.5 billion in the first three years, a big increase on the current budget.
It has previously struggled to receive sufficient funding, despite being a cost-effective program and having a high absorptive capacity.
According to the World Economic Forum, the Health Ministry’s plan will only succeed if enough resources are mobilised and treatment and quality care is offered to all TB patients.
India is not short on research expertise or technological and pharmaceutical capacity.
Indian biotech and drug manufacturers account for 80% of the global market for TB and HIV medication production.
Read More: Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, explores various approaches that facilitate finance and sustain progress in worldwide health advances