The Supreme Court today directed the Centre to replace after nine months the current practice of giving three dosages of medicine a week to tuberculosis patients, with daily doses.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, passed the order, saying all new patients should be administered daily dosage regimen of tuberculosis (TB) medicines after the expiry of a period of nine months.
The current dosage of thrice a week shall not remain in practice in any condition and as far as possible, the new drug regime be implemented, the bench, also comprising Justices N V Ramana and D Y Chandrachud, said.
It asked Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for the Centre, to ensure that efforts are made so that the patients across the country are administered the new dosage regimen, recently approved by World Health Organisation (WHO) to curb relapse of deadly disease and deaths during treatment.
The apex court bench, while passing the directions, disposed of a PIL filed by doctor and TB specialist Raman Kakkar, seeking change in the protocol for treatment of TB in the country.
Earlier this month, the apex court had asked the Centre to implement the new tuberculosis protocol saying if the drug combination is the same, then why can it not be given on a daily basis instead of thrice a week.
The plea had claimed that the practice of giving three doses of medicine every week should be replaced with the traditional and time-tested daily dose regimen.
Terming the decision taken by the concerned department as "unscientific" and "improper", Kakkar had said the present TB protocol stipulated only an inadequate medicine regime to cut costs, adding that it promoted relapses and generated a lethal drug-resistant strain in the body of the patient.
He has claimed that over 10 per cent of TB patients suffered relapse compared with the global average of three per cent, noting that the relapsed cases were harder to treat than first-time infections.
"A category II patient (one whose disease has relapsed) in India is given only 24 injections (of the antibacterial streptomycin) while everywhere else in the world such a patient generally gets 60 injections," the petition said.
It said more than 20 lakh TB cases are reported at government hospitals each year in the country, including between 3,500 and 4,000 in Faridabad each year.