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ZIMBABWE: Govt plans to replace DOTS
April 06, 2005

JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwe plans to introduce a new combination of drugs to treat tuberculosis (TB) early next year, an official in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare told IRIN.

Owen Mugurungi, a senior officer with the ministry's HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis programme, told IRIN that the Fixed Combination Dose (FDS) would replace the existing Directly Observed Treatment Short-course (DOTS) strategy.

"The new dose will combine a number of the tablets that patients are currently taking separately, to produce one powerful combination that will be tolerable to patients and more effective in combating all TB strains," Mugurungi explained.

He said FDS would also reduce the daily tablet intake from 14 to eight, resulting in fewer patients abandoning the treatment because of the large doses, as had been the case in recent years.

TB patients who skipped doses "have always returned to health institutions exhibiting signs of new, highly resistant TB strains that are hard to treat. We also expect the new dose to reduce some of the TB strains we have seen developing in patients who take the DOTS combination for a long time," said Mugurungi.

The launch of FDS has been delayed from June to early next year, as the medication is awaiting approval from the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe.

TB has emerged as one of the major opportunistic killer infections among HIV/AIDS positive people. According to the World Health Organisation, more than 19,000 Zimbabweans - most of them HIV positive - died of TB in 2003, almost five times the number of deaths from the disease in 1990.

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