Unchecked Tuberculosis May Be Expensive For PNG

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Drug-resistant TB cases could cost $22.9 million by 2020

By Haiveta Kivia

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, August 8, 2013) – Papua New Guinea, if not careful with its tuberculosis (TB) control program, may spend K53.82 million [US$22.9 million] to treat people with multiple and extreme drug resistant tuberculosis by year 2020.

The scary news is that the real magnitude and extent of drug-resistant TB in Papua New Guinea is unknown and the estimates by the PNG National Department of Health say it may increase.

Surveys are being carried out in the National Capital District, Madang, Morobe and Western provinces to determine the numbers.

The good news at this stage is that PNG is free of financial burden as the treatment is free and mostly funded by Global Fund and AusAID.

The crux of the matter will rise to its fore when this donors leave and we are asked to fund this expensive treatment regime from our National Budget.

This also had angered Prime Minster Peter O’Neill and he had asked for Papua New Guineans to change their attitudes.

"We must change, we live suicidal lives," Mr. O’Neill said.

According to the department’s information paper at the National Tuberculosis Conference, the K53 million [US$22.5 million] is to treat 3,000 people only.

It also stated that that figure may increase or decrease depending on how TB control is meted out.

In contrast, PNG will spend K30 million [US$12.8 million] to treat 50,000 people affected with simple tuberculosis.

The Department and its partners from last year to this year will spend K6.8 million [US$2.9 million] to treat 300 patients with multi-drug and extreme drug resistant strains of tuberculosis.

The stronger strains of TB are developed when a patient already on treatment fails and defaults on their treatment due to a number of reasons such as accessibility, lack of drugs, lack of health facilities and others.

The TB germ bacillus mutates and develops immunity to the first line of drugs and will require much stronger TB drugs that will cost a patient K16,600 [US$7,055] for second line treatment and K30,000 to K40,000 [US$12,750 to US$17,000] per patient for the third line drugs.

It only costs K160 [US$68] to treat and cure a patient with simple strain of TB.

Dr. Rendi Moke, the TB Physician for Daru General Hospital confirmed that they had spent K40,000 just to procure drugs for a patient with extreme drug resistant TB.

At the end of May 2013, the number of patients on second line treatment was 136 and it continues to increase.

A survey by World Bank indicated that TB also affected the Gross Domestic Product of a country by four to seven percent.

It affects the prime of the population which are persons between the ages of 15-54, who are more industrious and involved actively in the economy.

Health Minister Michael Malabag said not addressing and investing in TB control is likely to have a significant impact on economic growth.

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