Tuberculosis management by private practitioners in Mumbai, India: has anything changed in two decades?

Mumbai, India. A study conducted in Mumbai two decades ago revealed the extent of inappropriate tuberculosis (TB) management practices of private practitioners. Over the years, India’s national TB programme has made significant progress in TB control. Efforts to engage private practitioners have also been made with several successful documented public-private mix initiatives in place.

To study prescribing practices of private practitioners in the treatment of tuberculosis, two decades after a similar study conducted in the same geographical area revealed dismal results.

Survey questionnaire administered to practicing general practitioners attending a continuing medical education programme.

The participating practitioners had never been approached or oriented by the local TB programme. Only 6 of the 106 respondents wrote a prescription with a correct drug regimen. 106 doctors prescribed 63 different drug regimens. There was tendency to over treat with more drugs for longer durations. Only 3 of the 106 respondents could write an appropriate prescription for treatment of multidrug-resistant TB.

With a vast majority of private practitioners unable to provide a correct prescription for treating TB and not approached by the national TB programme, little seems to have changed over the years. Strategies to control TB through public sector health services will have little impact if inappropriate management of TB patients in private clinics continues unabated. Large scale implementation of public-private mix approaches should be a top priority for the programme. Ignoring the private sector could worsen the epidemic of multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant forms of TB.

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