The Public Health Ministry is providing assurances that everything will be under control, following the shortage and interruptions in supply of drugs to treat drug resistant strains of tuberculosis (TB).
These assurances were given by Director of Pharmacy, Oneil Atkins and Manager of the National TB programme, Dr Jeetendra Mohanlall. The Ministry confirmed that there was a recent shortage of the drug Ethionamide. According to Mohanlall, however, emergency supplies of this drug arrived in Guyana last week and were distributed.
Explaining the recent shortage, Dr Mohanlall said the National TB Programme is pushing for quality second line medication for Guyana’s drug resistant TB drug resistant patients. It is understood that due to some global challenges, the delivery was delayed.
The programme had to resort to emergency supplies which arrived beyond the expected time of delivery. According to the Ministry in a statement, the four second line drugs used to treat these drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) patients are sourced from South Korea, Japan India and Cyprus, through the Global Drug Facility (GDF).
According to Mohanlall, the medicines will be enough to treat “all drug-resistant TB patients for another year”. This is the first time in four years that we “had a brief interruption” of one of the medications for patients, the National TB Programme Manager added.
Mohanlall also related that while there were 150 screenings in 2014, this figure jumped to 1540 in 2017. He also noted that of the 2015 cohort of drug-resistant TB patients, 40 per cent successfully completed the two-year treatment. This figure climbed to 60 per cent in 2016. The 2017 cohort of DR-TB patients are continuing treatment.
He said TB patients generally have socio-economic challenges and they need psycho-social support in their management. To strengthen his position, the National TB Programme Manager is strongly advocating boosting the social protection of these patients which he said, “is in line with the END TB Strategy”.
Although Guyana has a 90 per cent coverage of Direct Observation Therapy Strategy (DOTS), there are still many challenges presented by defaulting patients such as drug addicts, the homeless and the internal migrant population such as miners and loggers.
In 2017 it was observed that a fifth (20 per cent) of the TB patients also habitually abuse drugs and alcohol.
“These can be difficult to manage under the DOTS strategy and there are some who need to be in specialised care facilities such as TB Step Down Care Unit set to be commissioned in the first quarter of 2019,” Mohanlall said.