Last week the RMI National Tuberculosis Control Program hosted representatives from WHO, SPC, and CDC. Dr. Jack, the Medical Director for the RMI TB Program led the team on a review of treatment for TB and MDR TB.
TB remains a major health problem for the Marshall Islands. Recent efforts to treat TB in the community with DOTS are starting to prove successful, as the TB rate in the Marshall Islands is beginning to decrease. Last year, the RMI Program reported 147 cases of tuberculosis, a 5% drop from the rate reported in 2011.
The WHO-led term focused on the proper supply and use of medications for treating MDR TB. To cure a patient with MDR TB two years of treatment is required, using medications that are difficult to take. Successful treatment is also very expensive. In the US, curing MDR TB requires more than $500,000 per case. This visit will ensure that RMI continues to qualify for MDR TB medications through a new Pacific Regional MDR TB Stockpile.
Overall, the RMI TB Program is delivering high-quality care to the TB patients in the Marshall Islands, including the care to MDR TB patients.
To cure TB in RMI, Risa Bukbuk, Biwij John and the TB program nurses organize medications for 70 to 100 patients, which are personally delivered to the patients every day. Failure to take regular TB treatment properly can result in development of multidrug resistant TB, which is much harder to cure.
To prevent MDR TB, the TB Program staff checks the patient, and then watches them take their pills each day during treatment. This is the “DOTS” method that has proven to cure TB around the world.