Annexure - B : Press Release

Leading Medical College Professors of India call New Tuberculosis Control Programme "Remarkable Success" and Commit to New Initiative

Bangalore, 15 September 2001


Leading medical college professors from all over India concluded an intensive two-day workshop with praise for the “remarkable success” of the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP), and committed themselves to a new initiative to further strengthen the programme. In the new initiative, more medical colleges, many of which are already involved in the programme, will open RNTCP centres for treatment of patients and enhance their teaching of tuberculosis.

Declaring themselves to be “greatly impressed by the achievements of the RNTCP,” the Workshop concluded with a series of detailed recommendations to ensure that medical colleges become an integral part of the programme. Under these recommendations, medical colleges will offer RNTCP services, teach about RNTCP, and participate in implementation and monitoring of the programme.

India is home to nearly one third of the world’s tuberculosis cases. The disease continues to kill more adults than any other single infection – approximately 5 lakh deaths each year in India. With rapid expansion of the RNTCP, that grim picture is now changing.

Honorable Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, Shri A Raja announced, “India has completed one of the fastest expansions of effective tuberculosis control in history. This year India is likely to treat more patients under the DOTS strategy than any other country in the world.” More than 425 million people in India now have access to DOTS.

Dr. S.P. Agarwal, Director General of Health Services, commented that “Tuberculosis and its control are vitally important to the health of this country. Nearly four years back, we hosted a consensus conference which concluded that ‘phased and effective implementation of RNTCP is the best strategy and perhaps the only chance of controlling TB in India during this generation.’ In the past four years, the programme has succeeded beyond our highest expectations. The current Workshop is an important next step in making that chance a reality.”

The RNTCP is based on principles of tuberculosis control which were established in India at the National Tuberculosis Institute, Bangalore and Tuberculosis Research Centre, Chennai. The five components of this strategy are political will, diagnosis primarily by microscopy, regular and uninterrupted supply of drugs, direct observation of treatment by a trained individual who is accessible and acceptable to the patient and accountable to the health system, and systematic monitoring, supervision, and accountability at all levels.

In the RNTCP, the quality of diagnosis is good, with half of patients having laboratory confirmation of their disease as is expected, compared with less than one in 4 in the previous programme. Quality of treatment is also good, with 8 out of 10 patients successfully treated, compared with fewer than 4 out of 10 in the previous programme. More than 7,50,000 patients have been started on treatment to date, and more than 1,30,000 lives have been saved so far – patients who would have otherwise died had the RNTCP not treated them.

Participants of the workshop, who included Heads of Department of Chest and Community Medicine of 35 major medical colleges including AIIMS, New Delhi; Christian Medical College, Vellore; AFMC, Pune; Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi; St. John's Medical College, Bangalore; Grant Medical College, Mumbai; King George Medical College, Lucknow; Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram and many others.

Dr. T Santha Devi, Deputy Director, Tuberculosis Research Centre, Chennai, summed up the Workshop consensus: “DOTS is the best strategy for controlling tuberculosis. The only contentious component of DOTS has been DO – and with this Workshop and recent initiatives, we are now DOing on a massive basis!”

Dr. JN Pande, Head of the Department of Medicine, AIIMS, New Delhi concluded that, “The RNTCP is one of the most encouraging successes in the health field of the past many years. Greater Involvement of medical colleges will enrich the programme still further, increase the number of patients benefiting, and put India again at the forefront of teaching and research on tuberculosis.”