Shortage of Critical Medicines Hits Drug-Resistant TB Patients

Shortage of Critical Medicines Hits Drug-Resistant TB Patients

In the heart of Punjab, a silent crisis is unfolding as government hospitals grapple with a severe shortage of critical medicines for patients diagnosed with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). This crisis, persisting for the past three months, has reached a critical point in the last month, with hospitals now running out of seven out of nine essential medicines required for effective MDR-TB treatment.

Severity of the Problem

The impact of this shortage is acutely felt by patients, who are now left at the mercy of providence as government hospitals advise them to purchase these crucial medicines from private medical stores. However, even this option proves futile as private stores are also grappling with the unavailability of these government-supplied medicines.

Duration of the Shortage

The shortage, which started three months ago, has worsened over time, with the state health department halting the supply of a majority of the required medicines in the past month. Previously, hospitals received approximately 10% of their demand, but this meager supply has now been completely halted.

Current Situation

Among the medicines in short supply are pyrazinamide 750mg, levofloxacin, rifampicin 150mg, cycloserine, clofazimine, isoniazid, and linezolid. Only a handful of hospitals fortunate enough to have these medicines in stock can continue treating MDR-TB patients, leaving many without the essential care they desperately need.

Alternative Solutions

For patients under the national TB control program, the only alternative provided is to purchase medicines from private medical stores. This, however, proves to be a near-impossible task as these medicines are not available in the private sector, creating a dire situation for those in need.

Impact on Treatment

MDR-TB patients, already facing a rigorous 18-month treatment plan, now risk treatment failure or drug resistance due to the unavailability of essential medicines. A gap in the course can have severe consequences, further exacerbating the challenges faced by these vulnerable patients.

Health Department’s Response

Health department officials express varying levels of awareness and assurance regarding the shortage. Dr. Guntash Kaur, medical officer at the TB unit of the civil hospital in Sangrur, reveals that no supply has been received for the past month. The state health department promises to expedite the supply in response to demands from affected hospitals.

Hospital Testimonials

Sangrur civil surgeon Dr. Parminder Kaur emphasizes the urgent need for the required medicines, stating that the demand has been communicated to the state health department, which has assured them of a swift resolution. However, the lack of action and the continuous shortage raise concerns about the immediate availability of these life-saving drugs.

Patient Perspective

Patients under the national TB control program find themselves caught in a dilemma, being directed to purchase medicines that are virtually unavailable. This situation highlights the vulnerability of those who depend on government support for their essential medical needs.

Communication Breakdown

A notable communication breakdown between hospitals and the health department surfaces, with hospitals unaware of the availability of medicines in Jan Aushadhi Kendras. This lack of information further complicates the efforts to address the shortage.

Jan Aushadhi Kendras Solution

While the medicines are available in Jan Aushadhi Kendras, districts were not initially informed, leading to a delay in accessing this alternative. Efforts are underway to rectify this oversight, with the health department now informing districts about the availability of medicines in Jan Aushadhi Kendras.

Districts Taking Action

Some districts have taken proactive steps and started purchasing from Jan Aushadhi Kendras, offering a ray of hope for MDR-TB patients in those areas. However, the challenge remains substantial, and a concerted effort is needed to ensure a steady and widespread supply of these critical medicines.

Official Statements

Director health services, Dr. Adarshpal Kaur, expresses unawareness of the shortage, promising to investigate the matter. Dr. Rajesh Bhaskar, the nodal officer for the national TB control program, sheds light on the shift in the medicine supply chain, directing districts to purchase locally due to the Centre running out of stock.

In conclusion, the shortage of critical medicines for drug-resistant TB patients in Punjab is a matter of grave concern. Urgent and decisive action is needed to address this crisis and ensure that MDR-TB patients receive uninterrupted and adequate treatment.


  1. Q: What is MDR-TB?
    • A: MDR-TB, or multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, is a form of tuberculosis caused by resistance to more than two anti-TB drugs.
  2. Q: What are the risks of a gap in MDR-TB treatment?
    • A: A gap in the treatment course can lead to treatment failure or resistance to more drugs.
  3. Q: Why are patients under the national TB control program directed to purchase medicines?
    • A: Due to the shortage, patients are advised to buy medicines from private medical stores, but the availability is limited.
  4. Q: What is Jan Aushadhi Kendras, and how are they involved in resolving the shortage?
    • A: Jan Aushadhi Kendras are pharmacies providing generic medicines at affordable prices. Efforts are being made to inform districts about the availability of critical medicines in these Kendras.
  5. Q: What steps are being taken to address the shortage by health department officials?
    • A: Health department officials are investigating the matter, and some districts have already started purchasing from Jan Aushadhi Kendras. Immediate actions are expected to resolve the issue.