DOH to shorten TB treatment to 4 months by Q3 of 2023

The Department of Health (DOH) will implement a shorter treatment plan for tuberculosis — from six months down to four months — by the third quarter of this year, Health Secretary Ted Herbosa said Monday.

At a press conference, Herbosa said the shorter span of drug intake for tuberculosis will give a “better success” of ending the treatment entirely and put a stop to the transmission of the infectious disease that often affects the lungs.

“We want to implement this short course four-month therapy by the 3rd quarter of 2023… The WHO has recommended us to adopt the four months treatment for regimen-which is a two months of certain list of drugs, and another two months of another set of drugs,” he said.

Citing the 2022 Global TB Report, Dr. Keziah Lorraine Rosario, Presidential Directives on Tuberculosis action officer, said the Philippines is the fourth country that accounts for the ? of the estimated tuberculosis cases worldwide.

The Philippines is also one of the countries, next to India, Indonesia, Myanmar, that contribute to the estimated increasing number of tuberculosis deaths, she added.

“Here in our country, it’s usually the adult population and also males with higher incidence of TB, given also the nature of work, exposure to substances, related to the environment, and because of transmission in the household,” Rosario said.

Herbosa also explained that the high number of tuberculosis in the Philippines was due to social determinants like the refusal to avail the services of the government’s TB-DOTS program, infected people hiding their condition due to the stigma, and informal settlers living in a cramped space which makes transmission faster.

In December 2022, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. tasked the DOH to prioritize the campaign against tuberculosis, along with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and COVID-19 infections.

“Let’s start refocusing again on the general public health concerns. Siyempre (of course) COVID has not come away. [We] still have to deal with it but let’s not deal with COVID… at the expense of all these other public health concerns,” Marcos said in a meeting with DOH officials in Malaca?ang Palace in December last year.

At the time, then DOH officer in charge Maria Rosario Vergeire told Marcos that the DOH had become “more innovative” in the fight against tuberculosis, noting that the agency would launch the primary care program that includes TB-DOTS.

According to Vergeire, tuberculosis had reemerged because of its high transmissibility, adding that the illness usually affects people from the lower income brackets of society.

During Monday’s press briefing, Herbosa said there are several technologies and innovations that will be used by the DOH to address the tuberculosis problem in the country.

“We will use artificial intelligence in TB detection by radiographs that can be read by AI… Dina-diagnose niya, makikita ‘yung radiograph ng machine [the radiograph machine] already diagnoses the presence or absence of TB,” he added. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News

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