Kenyans warned about inferior TB drugs

March 19, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 19 – The government has warned that some brands of Tuberculosis medication being sold by the private sector do not meet the required standards.

The Head of the Division of Tuberculosis at the Ministry of Public Health, Dr Joseph Sitienei said on Friday that more than 10 brands available in some pharmacies and private hospitals do not meet the recommended World Health Organisation regulations.

“Some of the medicines could be well labeled but when you look at the ingredients, they do not meet the number or the quantities that is required per particular tablet and this will lead to problems,” he warned.

In an exclusive interview with Capital News, Dr Sitienei said the government was working out a plan to ensure all TB drugs were only accessed from government facilities and agencies.

“We know that some of the medicines which are being dispensed, although legally, do not meet the standards that are needed and that is why the government is actually sourcing this single handedly from the sources that are known to meet those particular standards,” Dr Sitienei told Capital News.

He said TB treatment was administered in two phases – those in the early stage and those who are in the late stage.

“In the early stage we use a drug called Rifafour which is WHO prequalified and for the late stage we recommend Rifinah,” Dr Sitienei said.

He noted that self medication was also an impediment to the control of TB in the country.

“Kenyans have very interesting health seeking behaviours. First if somebody has a cough, the commonest thing that most people do is to go and buy medicines in a shop or in a pharmacy or elsewhere. What we need is that if somebody has coughed for a certain period of time like two weeks, they should seek care from a health facility so that they can be picked early enough before they transmit the disease to anybody else,” he said.

Dr Sitienei however said the number of TB cases had stagnated in the last three years recording about 110,000 TB cases annually but added there were some which were not recorded because they had not been reported in health facilities.

“When you see the cases of TB starting to stagnate, it is an indication that the transmission is also starting to stagnate. If we sustain and even improve on the efforts that we have already put in place, in the next few years, Kenya perhaps will start to see signs of decreasing TB cases notified,” he said.

But the cases of the resistant strain known as Multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) continue to skyrocket with 150 cases reported last year compared to 102 that were detected in 2008.

“This increase must be stopped as soon as possible because of the consequences of having MDR-TB,” he said. To treat a single MDR-TB case costs about Sh1.2 million over a period of two years.

Dr Sitienei said there was also one reported case of Extremely Drug Resistant TB, but was being treated in isolation.

World TB day will be marked on Wednesday next week under the theme “Innovate and accelerate action”. In Kenya, the national event will be marked in Nakuru.

“In all provinces there will be activities to mark the day and the Minister (Beth Mugo) will launch the intensive TB case finding within the prisons. We are moving from the traditional way of doing things,” Dr Sitienei said.

“This is where the health providers wait for patients in hospitals but now it’s time for the health providers to move to the people themselves. This will be launched as a starting point within the prisons because of the congestion,” he explained.


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