World TB Day
PRESIDENT CLINTON HELPS TB PATIENTS
Action brings attention to India's success in
United States President Bill Clinton marked World Tuberculosis Day
by administering the World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended DOTS treatment to TB
patients in Hyderabad, India.
At the Mahavir Hospital outpatient facility, President Clinton participated in the cure of three TB patients, who
received their final dose of medicine of a six-month treatment, under the DOTS programme,
today. One patient was an 18 year-old woman, the second a 35 year-old rickshaw driver.
President Clinton himself administered the dose of three pills to a 12 year-old girl and
then signed the TB register documenting her cure.
President Clinton noted that, "Today is World
Tuberculosis Day. It marks the day the bacteria which causes TB was discovered 118 years
ago. And, yet, even though this is 118-year-old knowledge, in the year 2000, TB kills more
people than ever before, including one almost every minute here in India
"These are human tragedies, economic calamities, and far more than
crises for you, they are crises for the world. The spread of disease is the one global
problem for which
no nation is immune."
"President Clinton's actions demonstrate how
important it is that world's leaders and not just health ministers support
efforts to control this major disease," said WHO Director-General Gro Harlem
Brundtland. " While covering pressing health issues such as
AIDS and polio, President Clinton nonetheless emphasized the tremendous challenge of TB
both in India and globally. This makes sense, as the economic and social costs of
tuberculosis in India are just as staggering as their health costs. It
is unprecedented that the US President has been so forthcoming and so supportive of health
India has more TB cases than any other country in the
world. Every year, 2 million people in India develop TB and nearly 500,000 die from it
more than 1,000 every day. The disease has become a major barrier to social and
economic development. More than 300,000 children are forced to leave school each year
because of their parents' tuberculosis, and more than 100,000 women with tuberculosis are
rejected by their families due to social stigma. It is estimated that the economic cost of
TB to India is more than US $2 billion each year.
To meet this challenge, India has recently expanded its use of the
WHO-recommended strategy, extending it to more than 15% of the country today. One year
ago, only 2% of TB patients were treated with the DOTS strategy. Because of this rapid
expansion, India now has the second largest DOTS programme in the world. As of World TB
Day, 24 March 2000, the Indian DOTS programme has given approximately 10 million doses of
DOTS to 250,000 patients on DOTS treatment programmes.
Not only has India's new TB programme expanded rapidly, it has achieved
excellent results in the process. Most notably, death rates have dropped substantially. In
programmes not using the new TB treatment strategy, 29% of the patients eventually die
from the disease. Under the new strategy, death rates are only 4%.
"Where DOTS is not used, patients are seven times more likely to
die from tuberculosis," said Dr Arata Kochi, Director of the Stop TB Initiative,
which is housed at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
Today, on the occasion of World TB Day, WHO and the International Union
Against TB & Lung Disease warned that if countries do not act quickly to strengthen
their control of TB, the multidrug resistant strains that have cost New York City and
Russia hundreds of lives and more than $1 billion each will continue to emerge in other
parts of the world.
"The best way to prevent drug resistance from developing is by
ensuring that people infected with TB finish the full, six-month course of their DOTS
treatment. That is the only way we can ensure that these people do not later develop
resistance to one or more of the five anti-TB drugs currently available," said Kochi.
With no new TB drugs on the near horizon, ensuring that people are cured
of the TB before they develop drug resistance is all the more important. "Otherwise,
we are condemning them to certain death," added Dr Kochi.
For more information, contact, in the United States, Jim Palmer at +1-202-262-9823; in
the United Kingdom, Janice Muir at +44-171-407-3313; in the Netherlands, Linda Verkerk at
+31-70-318-4405; at WHO Geneva, Gregory Hartl, +41-22-791-4458; at WHO, Delhi, Ms Harsaran
Pandey, tel (+91 11) 332 7971, e-mail Pandeyh@whosea.org.
A summary of "Anti-Tuberculosis Drug Resistance in the World, Report No. 2",
Fact Sheets, and electronic press statements can be found at http://www.stoptb.org.
All WHO Press Releases, Fact Sheets and Features can be obtained on Internet on the WHO
home page http://www.who.int