The initiative has been rolled out in five states and by next month, it will be introduced in 17 more states
Children suffering from tuberculosis won’t have to take the bitter tablets anymore with the government replacing them with strawberry and orange-flavoured ones.
The initiative has been rolled out in five states and by next month, it will be introduced in 17 more states and by year end, these fruit flavoured tablets will reach every child of the country, said a senior health ministry official. The doses of these tablets will be decided as per their weight.
At present, children diagnosed with TB are given the same bitter-tasting pills, which are actually meant for adult patients, four times a day. The move is aimed at improving the treatment of tuberculosis and child survival rate.
These easily-dissolvable and flavoured TB drugs has been rolled out in Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Bihar and Maharashtra on a pilot basis, said Dr Jagdish Prasad, Director General of Health Services (DGHS).
“The drugs will given to children on the basis of their body-weight. For the purpose, body weight has been divided into six categories – 4 to 7 kg, 8 to 11 kg, 12 to 15 kg, 16 to 24 kg, 25 to 30 kg and 30 to 35 kg – on the basis of which the doses would be administered to kids,” he said.
At present, children are given bitter-tasting tablets which are crushed into multiple pieces to give the correct dose to the kids, and as such the doses aren’t always precise and consistent, Dr Prasad said.
Also, as the drugs taste bitter, many children do not take the full dosage and complete the treatment. And when they do not complete their treatment, they fall ill again and develop drug-resistant TB which is difficult to treat.
“The fruit flavoured pills are easy to swallow as they melt inside the mouth. Thus a parent can make sure that the kid completes the full treatment,” he said.
In the coming days, easily-dissolvable and flavoured TB drugs will also be made available for adults, he added. The introduction of these flavoured drugs are in line with the World Health Organisation recommendations to improve treatment and survival rate among children suffering from TB.
According to government estimates, India has around 25 lakh TB cases of which around five to six per cent are children.